Meeting at PACK EXPO solidifies relationship between Vapur and Ampac; Sales of Anti-Bottle Increase by a Factor of 100 in one year

Jason Carignan, co-founder and chief design officer of Vapur (Westlake Village, Calif.), the company behind the “Anti-Bottle,” a flexible, reusable water bottle, hopes to return this fall to Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011 (Las Vegas Convention Center, Sept. 26–28).

Vapur’s last trip to Pack Expo Las Vegas solidified the company’s relationship with Ampac, manufacturer of the flexible packaging solutions that helped realize Vapur’s vision of the “Anti-Bottle,” and bring it to market.

Building on that success, Carignan plans to attend Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011 to find new materials solutions that will make the already eco-friendly bottle recyclable.

It Starts with an Idea

Carignan, along with David Czerwinski, now chief executive officer; and Brent Reinke, now chief operating officer; founded Vapur in 2009. Their mission: To design innovative products that empower people to make a difference. Just two years after launching, Vapur’s Anti-Bottle has gained international attention for its unique design and attributes.

Anti-Bottles are BPA-free and constructed of three layers of ultra-durable plastic – an inner layer of polyethythene bonded to two layers of nylon for added strength. This construction makes the Anti-Bottle foldable, washable and freezable. Consumers can attach the product to a purse, belt loop or back pack with a carabiner for convenient portability and personalize the container by writing in permanent ink on the designated white space.

Now widely recognized, 0.4- and 0.5-liter Anti-Bottles can be purchased by consumers through a variety of retailers- including Macy’s, and Eddie Bauer- throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. They can even be found in gift shops at museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and American Museum of Natural History, but achieving this level of brand recognition in just two years wasn’t easy.

“When we started the company, we knew nothing about the flexible packaging and manufacturing industries,” Carignan says. “As a small, self-funded start-up, we needed a partner willing to take a big leap of faith to help us bring our idea to market.”

Desperately Seeking Supplier

After searching for a supplier that would produce small test runs of the Anti-Bottle, Vapur found a friend in Ampac, a global packaging company that offers an array of flexible packaging options and manufactures out of the United States, Europe and Asia.

“When we approached them, we explained that we were well-positioned to launch in the U.S. market and that the Anti-Bottle would appeal to modern, active, eco-savvy consumers who are concerned about the impact of disposable plastic water bottles on the environment,” Carignan says. “God bless them, they believed in us.”

As Ampac worked with Vapur to produce test runs of the product and trouble-shoot initial design challenges, the Anti-Bottle concept was already turning heads within the packaging community. However, it was at Pack Expo Las Vegas where the two companies “became joined at the hip,” and where the Vapur team received a crash-course in manufacturing.

An Eye-Opening Experience

As they headed to their first Pack Expo Las Vegas, the Vapur team didn’t know what to expect.

Ampac had told them about the show, and the two groups had planned an ad hoc meeting to start planning production arrangements, Carignan says.

“Seeing the tools of manufacturing and packaging all in one space, we were awe-struck by industries we knew nothing about.”

At that point, Ampac director of innovation, Sal Pellingra walked them through the steps of manufacturing their product.

“Vapur was looking for us to do something beyond what most packaging companies do,” Pellingra says. “The shape and the features that they envisioned for the Anti-Bottle required a lot more engineering and processes than the average flexible beverage package.”

Taking advantage of the resources offered at Pack Expo Las Vegas, Pellingra walked Vapur around its booth and through the aisles of the show floor. The company also explained how the product would be assembled on equipment by Totani Corporation and which fitment (spout) options were offered by co-supplier Menshen.

“What’s so important about Pack Expo Las Vegas –especially when jumping from booth to booth is that you have a chance to really build relationships with customers and co-suppliers and offer a holistic perspective on the manufacture of a product to all the parties involved,” Pellingra says.

Perfecting the Design

Following the show, the teams from Ampac and Vapur rolled up their sleeves to fine-tune the design of the Anti-Bottle. They conducted organoleptic testing to assure no flavor was imparted by the interior polyethythene layer. Other tests ensured that the final product would withstand dishwashing cycles and retain its shape while standing or being folded repeatedly.

One challenge posed by the design was the application of a hole to the side of the pouch to accommodate the carabiner. The positioning of the hole had to allow the carabiner to hang comfortably when hooked to a belt loop or back pack. Applying the carabiner could not compromise the durability or strength of the pouch’s structure. By attaching it just lower than the top left corner, the sturdiness of the Anti-Bottle was unaffected by the addition of the convenience-enhancing hook.

Another challenge the partners had to overcome was finding a way to reduce scrap rates during production. Achieving a flexible pouch that would be comfortable in the hands of consumers required a curved design, producing more scrap – especially after the addition of the carabiner.

Ampac worked with Vapur to revise the size and shape of the prototype, eventually achieving a design that minimized scrap rates, helping the company live up to its eco-friendly brand promise.

Today, Vapur is claiming success – and rightly so: Unit sales of the Anti-Bottle leapt from 10,000 when the product launched in the fall of 2009 to 1,000,000 in 2010 - 100 fold increase in just one year. Looking ahead, the teams anticipate sales will exceed 4 million in 2011.

More than Just a Customer-Supplier Relationship

It could be the time spent together to perfect the design or the rapid success of the Anti-Bottle. Perhaps it was love at first product-pitch. Regardless of what made the blossoming partnership click for Ampac and Vapur, one thing is certain: The relationship keeps growing stronger.

“Ampac is the exclusive, worldwide manufacturer of our Anti-Bottle and Vapur’s strategic R&D partner,” Carignan says. “Earlier this year, we became their first client to co-host an open-innovation session to ideate for future products based on consumer needs. As time goes on, we’re increasingly becoming an integrated partner in each other’s businesses.”

The companies continue to work together to design the next iteration of the Anti-Bottle, focusing on adding an inner anti-microbial layer to protect the container’s contents over extended periods of time.

Looking Ahead

With a signature product under its belt, the team at Vapur is looking excitedly to what may be in store for the future.

“The biggest challenge we face is in making the Anti-Bottle not just reusable, but also recyclable, and we’re taking steps towards making this improvement,” Carignan says. “In building our lifestyle brand company, we’re going to continue to develop compelling products that promote hydration, health and sustainability through the power of great design.”

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