White milk remains the most important product in the LDP sector representing approximately 70% of all consumption. Liquid dairy products already account for one fifth of worldwide beverage sales, a figure which is expected to grow by a further 5% by 2016.
Much of this growth is attributable to emerging markets, with countries such as Brazil, India, China and the Middle East contributing significantly. A consequence of increases in disposable income is a rapid, and still growing, transition from raw to processed milk products. This strengthens consumer demand for added value offerings, with the growth being driven by categories such as flavoured milk drinks, soy beverages, health and wellness milk products. The main developed markets are more mature, with existing high levels of milk consumption. Growth here is driven through new products and new methods of filling.
Another factor is the trend towards healthier lifestyles leading to demand for enriched dairy products with healthy functionalities. This includes milk-based probiotics, products with added calcium to help promote healthy bones, and natural products that are free from preservatives and other additives.
The packaging has to meet stringent food safety standards but offer opportunities for brand differentiation. The challenge is to create innovative, attractive and functional packaging that is still cost-efficient to produce.
Consumers want convenience from their beverages and there is a move away from standard sizes to packaging formats such as single serve or portion-based options suited to an on-the-go lifestyle. At the same time, demand remains for multi-serve options, with bigger packaging sizes, particularly in milk, to meet family needs. At present cartons and HDPE are the most widely used for LDP, with glass falling away. PET currently accounts for 2% of packaged liquid dairy beverages. However, it is experiencing significant growth as producers realise the creative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions. Forecasts predict annual increases in PET’s share of the LDP market of 5% by 2016, out-stripping forecasts for cartons and HDPE.
PET packaging is user-friendly, shatterproof, re-sealable and, importantly 100% recyclable. It also offers freedom in bottle design, with the transparency showcasing the product. PET’s product and food barrier protection ensure great taste, extended shelf life and safety throughout the supply chain, protecting the nutritional and sensorial properties.
Transparent PET can be used for fresh and flavoured milk. The development of light-blocking barrier technology is opening up opportunities for white milk. Different preform manufacturing technologies are now available, the first being the monolayer preform: the PET raw material is mixed with additives in a master-batch before a standard injection process to improve the PET barrier properties. Or a multilayer preform solution can be achieved using either over-moulding or co-injection technologies. Neither requires aluminium foil capping.
Most liquid dairy producers have diversified their production with more value-added products. Line versatility allows them to vary their product recipes. For example, the same line might create white milks, flavoured milk drinks, yogurts and sour milk drinks. It can also accommodate different packaging formats or shapes, with the capability of quick changes from on-the-go to family packs.
LDP producers sometimes require production of smaller batches, say, for market-testing of new recipes before large-scale production. Also, in Southern Europe; Spain, France, Italy, there are a great many co-operatives requiring medium or low production volumes to serve a local regional market. They produce not only white milk but also value-added products. Lines dedicated to low-output aseptic production can prove invaluable in LDP, particularly if they offer the flexibility to produce different products and packaging formats.
At Sidel we saw the first switch to PET in 1999 when Dean Foods abandoned cartons in preference of a PET bottle for Nesquik flavoured milk.
Another milestone came in 2009 when UHT milk was aseptically bottled in a one litre PET bottle with no sealing foil. Now commonplace, this was a world first at the time with French dairy company Laiterie Saint-Denis-de-L’Hôtel (LSDH) using revolutionary dry preform aseptic technology to lightweight its bottles by 8g compared to the original bottle produced on an aseptic line with wet bottle decontamination. Since then, PET has continued to evolve in all categories of liquid dairy products, from Israel to Brazil, from Indonesia to Romania.
Liquid dairy products represent a significant proportion of worldwide beverage sales. This is set to grow as the move to healthier lifestyles stimulates growth in flavoured milk drinks, soy beverages, fortified milks and long-life ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk. As the demands for natural dairy increase, so the attributes of different packaging materials become more of a focus. PET is well placed to increase its share of the market in offering creative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions while aseptic filling preserves the quality and safety of the drinks inside.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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