NAPA - ACH Foam Technologies, a large producer of plastic foam products for construction and packaging, has formed WineLoc Packaging Products in south Napa.
Denver-based ACH has been producing wine shipping materials for the last couple of years, distributing them to North Coast wineries, wine clubs and fulfillment houses via local distributors. Now the company is launching its own distributorship, WineLoc, with new wine-tailored packaging and plans for oft-requested packing options, according to sales representative David Nickloy.
"There are a few suppliers we've had relationships with for years. We saw an opportunity to enter the market," he said.
[caption id="attachment_14251" align="alignleft" width="144" caption="WineLoc is coming to market with a new version of the foam wine shippers, available in standup or laydown packs up to 12-bottle cases."][/caption]
In preparing to launch WineLoc, ACH heard from wineries three key demands for shipping materials: that they are totally recycled or recyclable, be "green" and control temperature extremes, according to Mr. Nickloy.
WineLoc is coming to market with a new version of the foam wine shippers, available in standup or laydown packs up to 12-bottle cases. Because bottle shapes are becoming less standardized for marketing purposes, the shippers have been designed to allow a few versions to accommodate wider and thinner bottles to fit without a fulfillment house having to buy a number of different packers and boxes, particularly for 12-bottle cases.
Being tested now are packers made from all-recycled foam, including 70 percent postconsumer material. Also in the works is a temperature-control system for wine clubs that want to ship during summer months.
ACH specializes in foam products such as insulated building panels, industrial coolers and packaging for pharmaceuticals and wine bottles. The main material is expanded polystyrene, or EPS, foam, which is made from beads of plastic. It's different from the extruded polystyrene foam made under Dow Chemical's Styrofoam brand. The ACH company has nine plants nationwide.
EPS foam is one of four common wine packaging materials. The others are molded polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which is commonly used in plastic water bottles; molded pulp, which looks like a rigid, thick paper bag material; and corrugated cardboard. Though it doesn't have as much temperature insulating potential as EPS, molded pulp packaging has become the material of choice for shipping wine because it's biodegradable.
However, ACH and other producers of EPS foam have been actively pursuing greater opportunities for businesses and consumers to recycle through a group called the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers. The amount of EPS foam sold in the U.S. declined to 172 million pounds last year from a high point of 238 million in 1994, according to the trade group.
Recycling of the foam increased to 33.6 million pounds last year from 3 million pounds in 1990, amounting to a recycling rate of 19 percent.
Foam picked up from client businesses that offer a mail-back option can be remade into other EPS foam products if it is free of contaminants such as certain tapes, adhesives and dyes. What can't be ground up and remanufactured at a foam plant largely can be sent to a polystyrene resin supplier to be converted back into EPS foam.