In 2017, Innique is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Even if the product portfolio and company name have changed over the course of time – the high quality and reliability of the company’s production in Switzerland has remained constant. Today, the Swiss company sells individualised sports bottles made of plastic under the brand Bulb Bottles and on request also produces custom-made shaped bottles.
Whether for the fitness studio, a bike ride or hiking tours – there are numerous leisure time activities, where the sport enthusiasts should make sure they take enough to drink along with them. But also at school, at work or when carrying out a less sporty hobby it is advisable to ensure that one drinks sufficient fluids. There are manifold possibilities of filling up the drink of one’s choice. Drinking vessels made of plastic are extremely popular due to the wealth of shapes, colours and motifs, their high stability and yet low weight and not least due to their good price/performance ratio. And that is precisely what the Swiss company Innique AG specialises in. “Our refillable drinking bottles are produced completely in-house, are leak-proof, dishwasher-proof, don’t contain plasticisers or bisphenol A and are regularly checked by certified laboratories,” explained the present company owner and CEO, Fabian Binswanger, who has been responsible for the fate of Innique AG for the last nine years. However, the company’s roots lie further back. The company was founded in 1957 under the name Jkaplast by Jakob Kaltbrunner in Oetwil am See. At the beginning, a small team comprising of a handful of employees produced predominantly tubes and pipes using the extrusion process.
The company also already started manufacturing bottles shortly after the company was founded, initially however it concentrated on containers for varnishes and paint that were used in the chemical industry and later also on bottles and tubes for the cosmetics and food industries. At the beginning of the 1980s, the first plastic drinking bottles came off the conveyor belt – the foundation for the new business segment was laid. The Swiss company finally stopped production by pipe extrusion and realigned their machinery for the extrusion blow moulding technology. In the initial step melted polymer is pressed through a nozzle. The tubular-shaped plastic part that is created in the process, is then pressed into a forming tool and blown up using compressed air. As a result of the pressure the soft polymer takes on the shape of the interior contours. In a final step the bottle body created is cooled down. The injection moulding technology is used to produce the lid of the bottle – and thus a further plastic processing method is implemented.
Perhaps it was the “Made in Switzerland” seal that drew the attention of food manufacturers and companies from the sport industry as well as fitness studios and sports clubs to Jkaplast. “Our customers appreciate the fact that we manufacture in Switzerland and that our products excel with their high quality, long service life and attractive design,” reported Binswanger. But the current clientele of the Swiss specialists also includes other industries: The major Swiss bank UBS and the Raiffeisen Schweiz Genossenschaft implement Innique products as give-aways for sponsoring activities and to support football camps and other sports events. Nestlé used a sports bottle to promote its cocoa Nesquik and the Swiss section of Amnesty International offers a children’s bottle and a lunch box imprinted with the slogan “Superman of Human Rights” in its shop. After winning over new customers and in the course of the further growth, it became necessary to expand the premises in 1993. The company moved to a site in Grüningen that covers around 2,500 m², where the company’s headquarters are still based today. 15 years later, Fabian Binswanger bought the family company, which at the time was run in the second generation and had a headcount of 14 people. “In 2008, the family was looking for an external successor, because there were no candidates internally,” stated Binswanger, “and I had wanted to turn self-employed for some time already.”
Binswanger decided to further expand the sports bottle business and founded the brand Bulb Bottles in the same year of the take-over. “By founding our own brand we set ourselves the goal of further establishing ourselves in the B2B sector and at the same time developing a strong brand for the consumer sector. Furthermore, we wanted to push our international growth through Bulb Bottles,” is how Binswanger explained this move. In 2014, a further new name was introduced, namely Jkaplast AG became Innique AG – a new word creation derived from the two terms innovative and unique. A company that claims to create exceptional products cannot carry on producing standard bottles for the industry, which is why Binswanger completely withdrew from this business area and sold the production branch to a neighbouring Swiss company. Since then together with his team of 23 employees, the CEO concentrates on two areas: As an OEM Innique supplies several major customers, including the Isostar distributor, Wander, with specifically designed bottles that are exclusively sold on the retail trade under the name of the respective client. Here, the team offers its support from the design and construction process through to the mass-produced product. The Swiss company is additionally further expanding its own brand, Bulb Bottles, which it also sells on the promotional products market throughout Europe. Between 4 and 5 million bottles leave the factory in Grüningen every year.
The current Bulb Bottles line-up comprises of five models. Bulb B1 is considered to be the absolute classic. The bottle is available in 20 standard colours also with transparent and metallic effects as well as in four sizes. Furthermore, there is a choice between pull or flip lids. The characteristic feature of Bulb B1 that can be individually customised for minimum order volumes of 100 pieces is its large printing surface. For order quantities of 5,000 pieces upwards, the bottle and tops can be individually dyed in the desired Pantone shade. The model Bulb B2 stands out because of its curved, ergonomic shape and the standard model is made out of multilayer polypropylene with a silk-matt surface. Binswanger: “We are pioneers in the two-layer printing method. Bulb B2 has a dyed layer on the outside and a colourless layer on the inside, so that the drink doesn’t come into contact with the dyed material.” A further extra: Customer logos and short slogans with a haptic feel can be placed on the lower part of the bottle using a raised embossing technique for minimum orders of 5,000 pieces. Here an individual insert is produced for this purpose and placed inside the tool in a predefined place. The construction of the tools and the inserts are carried out by an external partner.
Modern screen and digital printing machines are available in-house for the customising process. “Digital printing is suitable for complex logos and slogans with many colours and colour gradients as well as for photo-realistic motifs and personalisations with individual names,” noted Binswanger. “Screen printing is recommendable for series with simple motifs or high volumes.” The portfolio is rounded off by practical accessories. For example, hip and thermal bags to match the sports bottle collection both in terms of their appearance and purpose as well as lunch boxes enable the compilation of matching sets. The regular delivery period is three to four weeks, in the case of express orders the customers receive their goods within one week. Not only optimised production processes and higher standardisation levels ensure a speedy processing, also the expansive warehouse allows short reaction times: Innique stocks around 700,000 bottles in 1,500 palette storage places.
Even if things have to happen fast, the company takes the time to integrate sustainable processes into its production system. Non-imprinted material left-overs are recycled in-house, imprinted rejects are reprocessed by a recycling company. For example, the colourful plastic waste is used for new water pipes. Investments in energy-efficient systems are a further component of the sustainability strategy. Binswanger: “By implementing fully-electronic machines we were able to sink the electric consumption by 30%. Incidentally, the electricity is 100% generated by hydropower. Not only the environment benefits from this investment, the ultra-modern machinery has further increased our product quality and ultimately our customers also profit from this.”
In order to offer customers the best-possible service and make sure the company is geared up for the future, Innique relies on web-based sales tools. The user-friendly online configurator allows the customers to create the various sport bottle models online in a convenient and fast process. Once the desired model is finished, the user sends his motif off and the employees in the order processing department at Innique put together a quote. “Our first configurator already went online in 2008,” recalled Binswanger. “Whereas at the time one could only freely select the model, colour and lid, now 3D visualisations and logos can be placed and promotional products distributors can send their customers design suggestions directly via the configurator for offers.”
This is further evidence that the company always reacts to the needs of the market in good time and doesn’t hesitate to tread new paths. And if others take this as a role model that’s great, because it is common knowledge that a lot of movement makes everyone thirsty, and Innique certainly has a few solutions up its sleeve on that front.
// Jasmin Oberdorfer
Photo source: Innique AG