THE BLADE/ISAAC HALE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
One of the most significant developments out of Owens-Illinois Inc.’s new research and development facility is the ability to produce red glass at a price that’s economically feasible for beverage producers.
Though red glass is not uncommon, O-I officials say it’s generally too expensive to be used by bottlers. The reason? Red glass typically gets its color from small amounts of gold.
“Red is beautiful, but gold in our market is a bit expensive, so we have to find another technology to turn it into red. The trick is finding the right composition and the right processing condition,” said Ludovic Valette, vice president of research and development for Owens-Illinois.
Late last year, O-I’s development team working at the company’s new Innovation Center found a process in which glass could be treated to achieve different shades of red, ranging from pink to a deep red that is nearly opaque. The company officially launched its red glass last week at a California wine auction.
On Friday, O-I’s team highlighted the work with red glass as an example of what the company’s new $35 million Innovation Center can do to drive new product development and help keep O-I as an industry leader. Red is one of four colors workers at the Perrysburg facility have been testing.
Officials say red glass is something the beverage industry has wanted for some time, and they’re already seeing strong interest in it.
“We have some very large customers who are interested in red [glass] for wine in the U.S. and outside. The main one will be an American-based company. We are also in contact with beer companies,” Mr. Valetta said.
Owens-Illinois is in the process of scheduling some larger trial runs on its red glass.
In addition to its looks, officials say the color is functional. Laboratory tests found red has better ultraviolet protection than the standard amber glass commonly found in beer bottles.
“UV protection properties are very important to our customers for the quality of their product. There are a lot of beer formulations, a lot of dairy formulations, that are very susceptible for UV damage,” said Alan Lotozynski, lab manager at Owens-Illinois’ world headquarters in Perrysburg.
Mr. Valetta said the composition and treatment of red glass makes it somewhat more expensive than comparable amber glass, but the company believes it could become a significant packaging option in the future.