Once upon a time there was an aluminium bottle that no self-respecting hiker would ramble without. It’s now becoming a fashion accessory that people take everywhere.
The SIGG bottle, made in the Swiss town of Frauenfeld, has been used by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood in her efforts to slow down climate change, because it is reusable.
It’s also being carried around in the Australian town of Bundanoon, which declared itself opposed to the sale of bottled drinking water on environmental grounds.
After a scare two years ago about the inner lining of the bottle having traces of bisphenol A (more commonly known as BPA), the company owned up and admitted making an error in communication.
It had been looking into the possible problem since 2006, found a solution to it and offered concerned customers for a limited time replacement bottles without BPA. The measure meant that SIGG was back on track.
“We extrude the bottle from a single piece of pure aluminium for a seamless, leak-proof durability,” the head of SIGG Switzerland, Walter Hinder, told swissinfo.ch.
Hit by 600 tons
The aluminium looks like a silver hockey puck before being hit by 600 tons of a piston stroke and then flowing along the piston transforming it into a cylinder. It takes its final shape after 26 further steps.
“Then it gets an inner coating, baked in an oven so that the inner coating stays stable and then it’s painted on the outside with a decoration on a line with up to six colours.”
“We try to tap into new trends, we make several designs for children, for ecologically-minded people, for sportsmen and -women, and for fashion-oriented women. So for all segments we try to find the best designs,” Hinder added.
The company’s history goes back to 1908 when Ferdinand Sigg and Xaver Küng set up an aluminium product factory in Biel. Their products included saucepans, frying pans and bottles.
Almost at the same time as the company moved to Frauenfeld in 1917, Küng left the company.
For the next eight decades SIGG sold thousands of household products across Europe, making it a household name. It wasn’t until 1999 that the decision was made to focus on the star product of the company – the bottle.
Whereas the bottle in Switzerland is still largely used for hiking and outdoors, it is marketed in a totally different way in newer markets.
“We have positioned the product and the brand completely differently as an everyday accessory to carry around your tap water in a fashionable and in an eco-conscious way,” Michele Starvaggi, head of marketing, told swissinfo.ch.
Fashion designer Westwood went into partnership with the company with a clear message: Act fast, slow down climate change.
Her idea by designing a limited collection was to minimise a person’s carbon footprint by reducing the purchase of plastic bottles.
It’s more or less the same story in Bundanoon, a small town about 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney. The town authorities in September 2009 officially launched a project called “Bundy on Tap” after approving an initiative not to sell or give away bottled still water within the town boundaries.
As part of the initiative, Bundanoon expanded drinking water facilities in the town. Businesses offer for sale reusable drink bottles, including those from SIGG, and chilled filtered tap water, whilst both free filtered water stations and water fountains or “bubblers”, supply the public and local primary school children.
Bundanoon hit the headlines for its initiative and became Australia’s first bottle-water-free town.
Hinder at SIGG notes that many people have a story about their bottles from his firm and share their experiences with them on YouTube. “We have a lot of messages… and they share with us their adventures.”
Sooner or later even a bottle from Frauenfeld will have had its day but Hinder explains that aluminium is a good metal to recycle.
“It goes to an aluminium factory and it makes secondary aluminium out of it and then it can be reborn as a future SIGG bottle,” he said.
SIGG – born in the bed
During the years after the Second World War when raw materials were scarce, a new and practical use for valuable raw materials was sought.
Enthusiastic experimenters and SIGG founders developed bed and water bottles out of aluminium residues.
The SIGG bottle was born in the bed. It is not a successor to its water bottle of the 1920s but to the bed bottle.
In 1993 SIGG was incorporated into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
SIGG introduces annually a new collection of bottles available in more than 100 sizes and designs.