Issue 15

Some of history’s greatest inventions were developed in order to solve the simplest of problems. In this case Norwegian inventor, Kjetil Naesje, was looking for a way to prevent his children from spilling drinks in the back of the car.

Naesje researched the valve closure systems used in scuba diving technology and developed a solution that he believed he could not find on the market. The end result was SmartSeal FLEX, a 100% spill proof closure for non-carbonated soft drink bottles.

The technology can take up to 100kg in pressure so no matter how much the user squeezes or drops the bottle, the closure will not release. It is even claimed that a car could be driven over the bottle and the bottle would burst before the valve releases liquid.

100% spill proof: the unique and innovative closure system

In 2001, the company SmartSeal was founded and the active closure was patented. According to SmartSeal head of sales, Paal Steensland, the team took a few years to fully develop the product, which was not released until 2010: "We did a lot of things because major potential customers expressed views. We sort of lacked a bit of concrete direction, while what we do now is to focus on products at hand."

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When suction is applied to the closure, the valve inside releases and expels water and when suction is removed the valve closes again, preventing any liquids from spilling out. The technology mimics the process of breast feeding, making the closure perfect for small children who will find the use of suction intuitive. Steensland states that adults may find it a bit hard at first to understand but the challenge is easily surmountable.

"[For] adults; it’s a different story in the sense that we have to rediscover how it works but I’ve yet to meet somebody who is silly enough to not understand it. It just takes a few seconds," exclaims Steensland.

The closure could provide a new consumer experience for the user as it is a challenge but once mastered the appeal of finding a new way to consumer beverages will stay with the user. The unique and innovative closure system could also become a selling point for beverage brands looking for new ways to stand out in a crowded market. Along with being perfect for children, the closure could also be useful to people who have an active lifestyle and want to bring a bottle with them in their bag or when exercising, states Steensland.

Building a business: working through the obstacles

SmartSeal is currently doing well on the market and sells around 50 million closures a year in Eastern Europe alone. The company sells mainly to the B2B market and along with the European market has a small selection of customers scattered across the globe.

As a small company that manufactures, commercialises and distributes everything in house, SmartSeal acknowledges that it is limited in what it can achieve at the moment. They only have so many resources and, as Steensland states, they "can’t be everywhere at the same time". Steensland claims that this is one of the reasons why the company has not yet expanded into other markets such as those in South America and Africa.

While SmartSeal FLEX is not a household name yet, as SmartSeal quietly build up its business in Europe and beyond, it looks likely that its vision of becoming "a world leading supplier of beverage closures with valves" could soon come true.

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