AMERICAN CANYON -- The North Coast impact of a recent multibillion-dollar divestiture of various divisions of Alcan Packaging, which makes the Stelvin line of aluminum screw cap wine closures, is expected to be more production capacity soon at the southern Napa Valley plant.
Amcor Flexibles American Canyon, formerly known as Alcan Packaging Capsules of California, has picked up 20 new customer wineries in the past few months and has three shifts booked solid for the next six weeks finishing screw caps for more than 800 local customers large and small, according to Frederick Catteau, sales manager for North America.
"We're requesting a second line with much more capacity with decoration," he said.
Two of the new local customers, one each from Napa and Sonoma counties, have combined bottling of about 3 million cases a year switching to cap closures, and that additional demand could make the installation of full-decoration equipment in American Canyon a priority, according to Mr. Catteau.
While a dominant closure for Australian and New Zealander wines, screw caps have been increasingly topping U.S. wines, particularly for high-production and white wines. However, some vintners that started capping sauvignon blanc or other whites are starting to top some of their red wines with a twist, according to Mr. Catteau.
Last year, Alcan spent about $1.5 million setting up the Napa Valley facility for finishing of the caps with 10,000 more square feet to house up to four production lines. The first line can apply grip texture, insert a seal and decorate the top with color and embossing to the aluminum cap shells that arrive with varnish and background color from a plant in Canada.
However, decoration of the sides of the long cap skirt, designed to resemble tin or plastic capsules over bottle tops in traditional wine packaging, currently must be handled at European plants that have such equipment, according to Mr. Catteau.
Those plants also produce the new Stelvin Lux line of high-end caps, which are designed to mask the screw cap look of knurling, threads and twist-off seam.
Australia-based Amcor Ltd. acquired four Alcan Packaging divisions for about $2 billion last month from London-based mining giant Rio Tinto. The latter had acquired Alcan in 2007 for a heavily leveraged $38.1 billion. The following year, Rio Tinto started a string of divestments to recapitalize, passing $10 billion with Bemis Co.'s acquisition last week of a fifth Alcan Packaging division for $1.2 billion, according to the company.
That included the capsules business, with three plants in France and one each in American Canyon, Canada, Chile and Australia. The only overlap of capsule production is in Australia, where Amcor and Alcan plants will be consolidated, according to Mr. Catteau.
Amcor has more than 300 facilities in 43 countries and focuses on plastic, glass, metal and other packaging for a number of industries such as alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals and tobacco. The company produces bottles, cans and cartons for the wine business mainly in Australia and New Zealand. It also makes the VinGuard long-skirted wine screw cap for those markets under license from Global Closure Systems of the United Kingdom.