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Gagging the Glug

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Gagging the Glug

Nothing is certain except death, taxes and motor oil glugging as it pours from a jug. Its usually a given that jugs require dexterity from the end user to try to regulate the flow of oil and prevent product from splashing, but lubricant companies like Valvoline and Ravenol have started designing jugs that even the clumsiest do-it-yourself oil changer can maneuver.

Engine oil packaging design has evolved from glass bottles with fill spouts in the early 1900s, to round and square metal cans in the 40s and 50s, to composite cans in the 60s. Plastic containers, in particular, have been a staple on automotive retail shelves and in big-box store aisles since they elbowed out composite cans after the 70s. At that time, 1-quart bottles were common, but in the 1990s and 2000s, the 1-gallon jug made its way to consumers.

Jugs compete with their smaller, quart-sized counterparts on retail shelves. According to Petroleum Trends International, 1-gallon, 2.5-gallon and 5-quart engine oil jugs account for 60 to 75 percent of shelf space at auto parts stores and big-box retailers. The containers have a volume that closely resembles the amount used for an oil change and offer the advantage of recycling a single container instead of multiple quart bottles.

Jugs are much heavier to lift, however, making it difficult to dispense oil into the engine, in addition to being prone to glugging and dripping as the contents pour out. Low-viscosity engine oils, which are increasingly becoming the predominant grades in the passenger car market, are especially prone to glugging. But high-viscosity oils can also glug to the point of actually splashing out of the container, said Jon Stratton, founder of Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Container Packaging Systems.

When you have a high-viscosity oil, flow rate is very slow. With a low-viscosity oil, product splashing due to glugging is unavoidable, Stratton told LubesnGreases. In either case, no-glug technology eliminates these issues.

Container Packaging Systems developed a vented cover for flexible spouts on pail drums. Air channels are molded into the pail cover to allow air to flow in, leading to glug-free pouring of different liquids, such as water and oil. Development of the pail cover designs and the production mold took just over a year and a half, with the patent for the product being issued last year. The vented pail covers became commercially available in January, said Stratton.

Anti-glug technology is not an easy feat to achieve. For the vented pail covers, Stratton said the technology had to be a low-cost solution that could be easily integrated into existing pail production molds and pail assembly equipment, pass United Nations packaging testing-which, among other things, measures packages resistance to drops, repetitive shocks and vibrations, leaks and different pressures-as well as provide glug-free pouring at all dispensing angles over a range of oil viscosities and especially at low temperatures.

If the pail and contents are cold, the flow speed is even worse, he explained. But if you can get air back into the container, it pours a lot easier. He added that the no-glug vented pail cover can increase flow rate of high-viscosity oils by 30 percent.

In September, Valvoline released a redesigned motor oil jug with two particular features: a pour spout that allows a clean flow cut-off to prevent drips and spills, and an anti-glug tube that lets air flow back inside the container to create a continuous stream of oil.

Valvoline isnt the only company to make inroads in anti-glug and drip-free packaging features. Across the pond, German lubricant manufacturer Ravenol designed 4-, 5- and 7-liter engine oil jugs with a spout that has a special opening to prevent air bubbles from forming, allowing for glug-free pouring. The spout can also be pulled up for drip-free dispensing of the lubricant into the engine, the company noted on its website.

In Valvolines case, the oil marketer worked directly with packaging suppliers and with consumers who prefer the DIY approach to an oil change to redesign the bottle. We worked with consumers directly to ensure we were delivering an improved experience in both the garage and on the retail shelf, said Michelle Allen, Valvoline director, strategic accounts. The company considered 65 designs for the bottle, she added.

The container is intended to appeal to anyone needing to complete an oil change regardless of what size they previously bought, Allen told LubesnGreases. She noted that the majority of motor oil retail sales in the United States automotive market are of 5-quart jug containers, which was the reason Valvoline invested in that specific container size. Approximately 70 percent of passenger car motor oil quart volume sold over the counter in the U.S. in 2017 was in 5-quart jugs, according to data from NPD Group.

In our do-it-yourself channel, where we sell to retailers who sell to consumers, over 80 percent of sales are in 5-quart jugs. This trend has only accelerated by retailer promotional strategies, such as oil change specials and other tie-ins, she added.

The bottles anti-glug tube acts as a vent for motor oil to flow freely as it is poured, said Valvoline Packaging Engineer Steve Ruble. This prevents the repeated vacuum build up and eventual gulps of air that are required for product to flow from a non-vented container. Integrating the anti-glug tube was difficult for Valvoline, because the company had to maintain its packaging size to avoid impacting retailers, Allen said in an interview with Packaging Digest in November.

Designing the drip-free spout was another challenge. Ruble told LubesnGreases that it took Valvoline several attempts to find the right combination of height, shape, angle and wall thickness of the spout to achieve the pouring performance the company was seeking. The shape and angle of the lip of the spout act in concert to cleanly cut off the product flow when the bottle is tilted back to an upright position. The goal was to have a very controlled, accurate pour with no mess, he added.

The packaging uses more plastic than the former style of jug due to the anti-glug tube, which is constructed from high-density polyethylene resin. Though the material is recyclable, Ruble pointed out that our industry suffers from a lack of acceptance in the recycle stream due to the residual product in our empty containers.Consumers should check with their local municipalities to find the most responsible disposal method available to them.

Since the company is still rolling out products in the redesigned motor oil jugs, Allen could not share sales figures due the varying degrees that the bottles are working through our respective retailers supply chain, she said. The jugs were released for Valvolines fully synthetic motor oil line, and the company will launch the new packaging for its 5-quart conventional, high-mileage and racing motor oils in the first half of this year, she added.

Stratton of Packaging Container Systems found it encouraging that Valvoline integrated an anti-glug tube into its motor oil jug, adding that its a leading issue in all kinds of lubricants packaging, including pails and drums. Youve got two advantages to a no-glug feature, said Stratton. Youve got better pouring at low temperatures, and then you have the no splashing and safety advantages.

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