Consumers have growing concerns about food safety risks. They demand dairy products that have a natural flavour, are free from artificial and chemical preservatives, are fresh tasting yet have a longer shelf life. Dairy manufacturers are having to respond to the growing consumer demand and are turning to aseptic technology to help them achieve this. dairy innovation reports.
dairy innovation Editor Geoff Platt asked Sidel Product Manager Aseptic & Sensitive Luca Colato and KHS AG Manager Product Support Competence Centre Aseptic Cold Filling Marcus Huppmann about trends and developments.
How has the demand for aseptic filling grown in recent years?
The market is very active in Europe, says Sidel’s Luca Colato, while in Asia and the Americas “the market is split between two technologies; aseptic and hot fill and both technologies are keeping their shares. We are currently following with interest the changes happening in terms of production and distribution of liquid dairy products in USA from cold chain to ambient, which, if confirmed, could drive an interesting market growth in the coming years.”
At KHS Marcus Huppmann says the demand for technical solutions for aseptic cold filling has risen rapidly, particularly in recent years.
“The fact is that anyone who practices aseptic cold filling in the non-alcoholic beverage industry is set up for all eventualities and can easily accommodate future trends that are not even recognisable at the moment, as aseptic cold filling is also outstandingly suitable for bottling the most sensitive of beverage developments.”
Huppmann believes the trend in aseptic cold filling is quite clearly toward the use of non refillable plastic bottles.
“While the PET bottle is normally used for classical non-alcoholic beverages, up to now it has been mainly the HDPE bottle that has been used in the dairy sector. From the KHS point of view, we also see an increasing requirement for concepts for aseptic cold filling in plastic bottles in the future. At the same time, we expect a decrease in the demand for cartons filled using the aseptic cold filling process.”
Where is the dairy industry in terms of aseptic technology compared to other food and beverage sectors? Is it ahead, keeping up or falling behind?
Generally speaking the dairy is really ahead, observes Colato.
“Aseptic technology has grown first in the dairy market with carton packages. There is a trend to aseptic filling in plastics today also for milk and liquid dairy products as dairy producers try to differentiate and offer more consumer convenience. This trend was slowed down until last year due to the limitations in terms of barrier properties of HDPE and PET. We believe that the new light barrier PET materials that are coming to the market will boost this market in the coming years.”
Huppman believes that up to now the dairy industry has not jumped on the bandwagon of aseptic cold filling in plastic bottles to the same extent as the fruit juice and soft drinks industries.
“One of the reasons for this is that the classic distribution method via the cold chain is preferred for milk. In addition, expensive plastic bottle solutions are required for the aseptic cold filling of dairy products.
Examples are HDPE bottles with a carbon layer or made especially for the dairy industry from special blends, and sleeved PET bottless. Up to now, these types of plastic bottle have been considerably more expensive than cartons.”
He adds that another reason why the bottling of dairy products in plastic bottles is not more widespread lies in the high sensitivity of the milk itself.
“Many manufacturers are unwilling to experiment in this regard.”
For the future, he expects the trend toward aseptic cold filling in plastic bottles in the dairy industry to come mainly from the combination of milk with other beverages such as coffee, juices and so on.
Are dairy companies responding to consumer demands or are they trying to keep one step ahead of their competitors?
“Both,” says the Sidel Manager. “Let’s take the example of a dairy launching UHT milk in a monolayer aseptic PET bottle with a one step opening screw cap – with no aluminium seal. They respond to consumer demand of a convenient and appealing bottle, and they also take a major step ahead of their competitors.”
What is the latest focus of attention and what is your company offering the dairy trade?
Sidel is focused on the economic and environmental sustainability of the business: reducing chemicals and water consumption, as well as reducing the weight of the bottles without compromising on food safety and consumer convenience.
“We have developed for the dairy industry a combined blower and filler, equipped with a preform decontamination system,” says Coralo.
“This technology, called Predis brings extended shelf life to dairy products without any release of chemicals or water in the environment. It also brings major light weighting possibilities since there is no need to heat the bottle after it is blown. Predis is already running in several countries in Europe and we will soon deliver a major installation to one of the largest international dairies.”
Meanwhile, KHS is concentrating on the mixed products market (for example milky coffee, flavoured milk, set yogurt) and bottles these in specially designed PET bottles and also in HDPE bottles.
“The mixed dairy product segment in particular is sure to become more important in the future. Not least because the sale of mixed dairy products enables a considerably higher profit margin to be achieved versus classical milk. For the American market, a NOL (letter of non objection) from the FDA is required for the aseptic cold filling of milk and mixed dairy products in plastic bottles, which we expect to receive shortly.”
How do you see the future of aseptic developing in terms of demand and technological advances? What new developments are on the agenda?
Sidel believes the future is to have environmentally sustainable aseptic solutions. “Of course, this will have to be achieved with price competitive and fully safe solutions.”
For KHS it is quite clear that the requirement for aseptic cold filling concepts for the dairy industry will continue to increase.
“As a result of falling costs and new barrier possibilities offered with PET bottles, we see a considerable increase in aseptic cold filled dairy products in plastic bottles in the dairy market of the future. And also because the industry is trying to get away from cartons and cans.”
Huppmann also highlights environmental issues. “Future technological developments will be directed particularly towards reducing packaging costs. Here, the trend is towards ever lighter plastic bottles and caps. Of course, the subject of even more environmentally friendly production will also become more important. The motto here is to reduce media consumption and consequently to reduce environmental pollution. To this end, new technologies are directed toward the sterilisation of bottles entirely without the use of chemicals.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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