100 Years Strong: Hi-Cone

Hi-Cone's Top Lift plastic wrap carrier evolved from the original 1950s carrier to meet today's beverage packaging needs.


Hi-Cone, part of ITW’s consumer packaging platform, typifies the culture of innovation that runs through ITW’s businesses. Fifty years of simple, ingenious solutions have helped drive profitable growth, even in mature markets.

It was the late 1950s, and ITW inventor Jules Poupitch was searching for a way to hold soda and beer cans together without the flimsy metal clips or heavy, damage-prone wooden boxes beverage manufacturers used. He shoved a few cans through a sheet of plastic and pushed them off a table. To his delight, the cans tumbled down together intact. The idea turned into the Hi-Cone beverage carrier: an elegant, simple packaging solution that transformed the beverage industry and continued to drive profitable growth in its many later iterations.

Problem solving and design smarts are an important part of the culture of nnovation at ITW businesses like Hi-Cone. Indeed, not many businesses or divisions can claim to have two employees who have earned 80 patents between them. But the Hi-Cone story is also about persistence and ITW’s customer-application engineering.

In fact, while beverage companies initially liked the new carrier, there was no way for them to use it within their factories. Determined leadership worked closely with one interested company, Anheuser-Busch, to develop new equipment that would attach carriers to 1,200 cans per minute. By the 1980s, Hi-Cone was saving beverage companies millions of dollars annually and dramatically shortening processing time.

The Hi-Cone six-ring carrier is one of those inventions that makes you wonder, “How did we live without it?” But Hi-Cone has hardly been resting on its laurels. In the 50 years following the original carrier, Hi-Cone has evolved the original design, anticipating the industry’s evolution from glass bottles to cans and plastic bottles and then diversifying with carriers for non-beverage consumables. In the 1990s,
Hi-Cone responded to environmental concerns with yet another innovation—the industry’s only 100 percent photodegradable carrier.

In 2011, Hi-Cone continued to follow ITW’s tradition of customer-focused engineering. For example, Abbott, a global health care company, discovered a clear consumer preference for the innovative Hi-Cone Top Lift carrier over shrink wrap or paperboard. Hi-Cone partnered with Abbott to install the necessary equipment; the switch saves 250,000 pounds of plastic annually, while the clear presentation highlights the products.

Despite constant innovation at Hi-Cone, the ingenuity of the original carrier hasn’t been forgotten: it was recently featured in an international tour of the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition: Hidden Heroes: the Genius of Everyday Things.