SWS Consulting, LLC

Case Study:

Shaped Beverage Container Development

Success has many parents is an axiom that applies to creation of the first shaped carbonated soft drink bottle to hit the market. There was a terrific team of talent brought to bear on launching the one-way PET contour bottle and I was fortunate enough to play a role.

What we brought to the effort was an ability to rapidly prototype design iterations and guide the direction of the development efforts with data. The effort moved very quickly and it is safe to say there was a new design twist every other day in the program. There were many drivers of why the design was so fluid, but for certain the bottle reinvented the carbonated soft drink business. The bottle had to represent the most recognized brand in the world. Believe me, we made some junky designs on the way to making the right design.

Each idea inserted by the many team members had to be tried. The brand could not afford to miss an opportunity to achieve the performance goal. It was always a compromise – what was wanted was what glass does – shapes that are retained through the life cycle of the product. Except plastic expands and creeps and constantly changes shape. The expensive counterbalance against shape changing is to add weight. Returnable contour bottles had been in the South American market several years before the launch of the North American one way and those bottles do retain their shape well. However, it was not commercially feasible to add that much weight to a one-way bottle.

A key insight we provided was that we knew we could shape the empty bottle in such a way as to achieve an acceptable shape after the plastic expansion took place. We arrived at a compromise through hard work, through brand owners taking a risk, through a design team that did not give up, through production people accepting a bottle that was inherently harder to run, and by technical people that could communicate the realities of the tradeoffs.

Today we have simulation tools that can answer many of the questions we addressed by making prototypes. However, I cannot overstate the power of getting those prototypes, good and bad, in the hands of the marketers that figured out how to keep driving the program.

Someday, the story of the bottle can be completely told, but if I tried to tell it, I would forget names of important members. I can just say that I was one of them.