RICHMOND, Va. — Reynolds Metals Co. executives say the resealable aluminum Reylock can the company will introduce today will be the biggest entry in the highly competitive container field since the pop-top.
"The Reylock can represents the first totally recyclable large beverage container over 12 ounces specifically designed for the soft-drink market," said Robert D. O'Donnell, can division chief.
Because the container can be opened and resealed repeatedly, it will allow buyers to consume beverages over extended periods.
Reynolds declined to estimate sales of the resealable can but called it one of the biggest developments in the Richmond-based company's history.
"The best possible case is that the thing goes crazy," said Lee R. Gunton, national marketing manager for the can division. "At the worst, this will be a nice package for somebody."
O'Donnell said the new product offers as much business potential to Reynolds as the stay-on tab, which it developed and patented in the 1970s. The company continues to profit, either directly or through royalty arrangements, every time a top is popped.
The company will make the product in six sizes: 16-ounce, half-liter, 24-ounce, three-quarter liter, 32-ounce and one liter.
Designed with soft-drink makers in mind, the can may be used for any drink from mineral water to fruit juices to isotonics, such as Gatorade.
The Reylock is an aluminum cylinder sealed completely at the bottom. The top is a small inverted cone with a hole in the center. The seal is plastic. It debuts today at the InterBev trade show in Chicago.
To open, a user lifts the seal's two handles and pulls it off. To close, the user snaps the top into the hole and forces the handles down with the palm. The can also can carry a tamper-resistant seal.
The new can will not come in smaller containers designed for one person to use at one sitting.
The company plans to have the new can in a test market with at least one commercial customer by year-end, O'Donnell said. If customers accept the can, Reynolds will begin production next year. By year-end 1988, the new product could appear in grocery stores across the country.
Packaging and containers accounted for 43% of Reynolds' 1986 sales of $3.6 billion.
Reynolds' search for such a new product began in 1982, when "we decided that the aluminum can had started to mature in the single-serving market, and we looked for a way to go after the larger sizes," O'Donnell said.
"The result of that effort is our resealable can. We spent as much as five to six man-years per year over the last five years bringing this to the marketplace."
The stay-on tab took two years to develop.
Reynolds does not intend to license Reylock can production in the immediate future but will make the product itself.
Reynolds officials are cautious about predicting how big a hit the can could be, but O'Donnell said that, if it takes off, Reylock could take as much as five years to become a major item in the container business.