A Guide to Contract Bottling

A Quick Explanation of Contract Bottling:

Contract bottling is the process of hiring an external company (a contract packer) to undertake your bottling. The company will normally deal with the entire packing process, not just the bottling. So they will not only put your raw material into a bottle, but will also provide further outer packaging for distribution should you need it. A contract packer can also act as a consultant and help you decide what kind of bottle is best for your product.

On this page you will learn:

Advantages of using a contract bottling service:

Outsourcing your bottling helps you control costs for both a full production run and a trial run.

Machinery can be tricky to set up and maintain, and it will require trained operatives if run in-house. These are all very expensive initial outlays.

If you decide to introduce a new product line you will either have to buy extra equipment or take time away from your current production line to bottle the new product. If you use a contract packer you have far more flexibility. You can upscale with a new product without having to disrupt production on your original line.

When should you try to do bottling in-house?

If you are working with very small quantities you can undertake bottling manually using basic equipment like a funnel and a jug. Then, as quantities grow, outsourcing can be investigated.

Most co-packers have a minimum order charge, so as you grow, it becomes viable to move from a smaller set up to something more industrial.

How does contract bottling actually work?

Below is a step-by-step summary of the different stages you’ll go through when you use a contract bottler:

  1. The liquid is chosen by the client usually, and the formulation is agreed and set.
  2. The product is delivered to the co-packer. This can be in larger vats, barrels etc.
  3. A quality control visual check is performed by the co-packer staff.
  4. The bottle, jar, tub or other receptacle is chosen and ordered by the contract packers or the client. The closure (the cap or other closing system) is also chosen and ordered.
  5. The labels or screen print are also decided upon and chosen by the client, and print design is signed off by the client.
  6. Print or labels are applied to the receptacle.
  7. Fill levels and volumes are agreed with client (WePack works to minimum weight or volumes).
  8. A filled sample is made and approved by the client — a photo is often used.
  9. Filling then takes place on 1 of 8 air operated machines, closures are applied and tightened, labels (if required) applied, ink jet date code is applied on line. Watch a video below of the bottling machine in action:

11. The product is boxed. This could be a fancy printed individual carton or a straight shipper, depending on client needs.
12. Once packed, the product may then require an over wrap to enhance it, similar to how a perfume is wrapped. We offer over wrapping and shrink wrapping services.

How to choose your bottle:

There are various things you need to take into account when picking your bottle, including:

  • Brand message (which can affect everything)
  • Weight of transport
  • Safety of product
  • Cost

These all affect the choices you make about:

  • Aesthetics
  • Material
  • Colour
  • Print
  • Size
  • Capacity of bottle

Factors such as aesthetics, material (glass, plastic), colour, print, size and capacity would all be relevant factors.

Should I choose a plastic or a glass bottle?

The main points you need to consider to make this decision are:

  • The chemical make-up of the product
  • Whether the product is strongly scented
  • Whether the product is vulnerable to UV light

Other considerations include:

  • Cost
  • Brand message
  • Design and aesthetic needs

The product within the bottle can dictate the material of the bottle or container. Most plastics are porous to some degree, meaning that scents can leech through the walls. This is why perfumes are packed in glass bottles, which act as barriers between the liquid and outside air.

Some liquids will also destroy and degrade certain plastics, so tests must be performed to find the right bottle before the product can be brought to market.

Strong colours and liquid properties can also be affected by UV light, so coloured glass, such as amber bottles, are often used for such liquids. Amber glass blocks out the UV rays and helps protect the products properties for longer.

What can be bottled by WePack?

Most liquids can be bottled at our facility in Ilkeston. Flammables and non-flammables, liquids, lotions, gels, creams, thin pastes, honey, syrups, serums, concentrates, cordials, food and non-food products!

What is gas flushing? Click here for a full definition.

We send PE bottles to have their internal walls gas flushed in certain circumstances. Gas flushing can be carried out to varying levels. The bottles are placed in a special chamber. The chamber is filled with a gas which hardens the internal walls of the bottles, sealing off the pores that can cause leeching. This system is used for bottles carrying solvents such as nail polish remover and the like. It also helps prevent the bottles from “panelling”, which is when the bottle forms dimples and the walls begin to collapse over a period of time. This is unsightly and does not enhance the product!

How does labelling work?

Most bottles are labelled by hand because of their shape. Sometimes they can be machine-labelled. Your contract packer will need to receive your labels on rolls in the correct orientation for machine application. They should be able to print the labels themselves if you send over the artwork, so you won’t have to worry about this.

How does bottling work with unusual shapes of bottles?

Semi-automatic lines work best when filling unusual bottle shapes. Bottling with non-standardised shapes does take longer. Fully-automatic lines will not be able to accommodate these kinds of shapes (we have semi-automatic lines, so in principle can handle any shape of bottle).

Interested in contract bottling? Get in touch