The packaging company Sonoco has signed an agreement with OnTech, LLC, to manufacture and assemble what it says are the first self-heating plastic containers for consumer use on the US market.

The containers will be used for packaging coffee, teas, cocoas, soups, baby formula and other foods and beverages for anytime, anywhere consumption. The technology allows the contents of the package to be heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes at the press of a button.

OnTech chief executive officer Jonathan Weisz said: "We are extremely pleased to have such a strong partner as Sonoco on board as we commercialize this exciting new technology.  Interest has been extremely high among companies that want to capitalize on the 'on-the-go' eating habits of today's consumers. It was critical that we have a partner that complemented us from both a technology and manufacturing perspective.

"Not only does Sonoco provide the expertise in blow-molded and injection-molded plastics necessary to produce the self-heating containers, the Company also has the experience in food processing and the capacity necessary to accommodate the rapid commercial scale-up we anticipate," he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, OnTech, developer of the self-heating containers, will be responsible for sales and marketing. OnTech currently has three contracts with national consumer products companies for more than 20m units. The first product is expected to launch in fourth quarter 2004, with the second following soon after.