Sidel has 45 years' experience in hot-filling, and more than 1,000 pieces of equipment installed worldwide for handling sensitive and natural beverages such as juices, teas and sports drinks. The company explains how tailored PET packaging guarantees top-quality, cost-efficient and sustainable production.
The annual market growth of 6% for the consumption of sensitive drinks such as juices, nectars and teas presents significant opportunities for beverage producers worldwide. The popularity of PET hot-fill packaging techniques continues to rise in this field, and Sidel is at the forefront of this technology.
The company's packaging engineers and designers are dedicated to developing attractive and sustainable bottles to differentiate beverages on the supermarket shelf. Using the most advanced technical and fully integrated solutions, the company is able to ensure detailed control and transparency throughout the whole process. Complemented by ongoing tailored services, producers are able to meet changing consumer needs and market requirements.
Fully integrated and flexible, Sidel's PET hot-fill packaging solutions are reliable and safe, and optimise uptime and operating costs by taking a holistic view of the production cycle and line performance. Focusing on the specific features of customers' packaged beverages, Sidel's solutions combine processing and filling seamlessly, minimising consumption and costs. With control and regulation systems in place, producers can increase performance and make more informed decisions, ensuring optimum hygiene, efficiency and safety throughout the supply chain.
Sidel's filling product manager, Gabriele Gatti, comments: "Juices, still drinks and teas constitute the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry. PET packaging - already the material of choice for 40% of these beverage types, and still growing in popularity - is an attractive and sustainable way to distribute sensitive beverages at ambient temperatures."
Combined with aseptic or hot-filling production, PET can ensure the safety of drinks throughout their shelf lives. The temperature of the beverage heating process is as high as 80-92°C, which is above the normal thermal resistance of conventional PET bottles. "This requires specific packaging and equipment to allow PET to resist to hot-filling temperature. In 1986, Sidel pioneered the heat-resistant (HR) stretch blow-moulding process to allow bottles to withstand these high temperatures, since when the company has driven PET's transformation into the flexible packaging solution it is today."
Sidel's global packaging capabilities, including PET?bottle design, combined with its expertise in hot-fill production, provide the means to produce bottles that are resistant and attractive. From designing the preform all the way to the blowing process, the company undertakes a singular approach to achieve HR PET?bottles of the highest quality.
The company has significantly reduced the weight of HR bottles while retaining their durability and increasing the bottle design opportunities. This latter achievement is due to the elimination of vacuum panels - previously a design necessity to absorb the variations in volume that the HR bottle and contents undergo passing from hot to cold conditions, and also to the innovative and efficient electrical mould heating and accurate material distribution. As a result, the distinctive bottle shapes stand out on the supermarket shelves - and consistently deliver a great consumer experience.
Sidel's latest model for HR bottle production - the Sidel Matrix eHR blower - adds yet another innovative dimension to hot-filling. Traditionally, PET?bottles for hot-filling are produced via the heat-resistant stretch blow-moulding process at 120-140°C, a temperature usually attained by circuits of hot oil. By instead using electricity to heat the mould, the Sidel Matrix eHR blower enhances operator safety, preventing hazards caused by oil leakages, such as an operator slipping or product contamination.
Probes are directly located in each mould shell to regulate the temperature as closely as possible to the PET bottle as it is formed. The process is very responsive, heating at a rate three times quicker than by oil, accurately providing the correct temperatures immediately from the very first bottles produced. This results in a process that is uniform between blowing stations, ensuring high bottle quality and consistent performance in the hands of the consumer, even at outputs of up to 2,000 bottles an hour, per mould.
This innovative electrical mould heating combined with Sidel Matrix blower technologies offer energy savings of up to 45% compared with traditional, oil-heated blowers.
A further saving of 25% can be achieved with Sidel's Matrix Ecoven, which uses infrared lamps with ceramic instead of metal reflectors. A reduction by up to 45% of air consumption is possible by implementing Sidel's air recovery option, AirEco2.
To meet the production demands of sensitive and natural beverages, the Sidel Matrix hot-filler, SF700 FM, offers the highest standards of hygiene and operational reliability during filling. It can be used for a variety of sensitive beverages, with or without pulps. Beverages containing particles up to 10×10×10mm can also be handled with a double-stage filling. It is suitable for PET bottle sizes ranging from 200ml to 3L.
Operating at production rates ranging from 6,000-60,000 bottles per hour, it features electronic filling valves equipped with individual flow meters that ensure precise filling volumes, while minimising wastage. Its operation of contactless filling - where there is no contact between the filling valve and the bottle neck - optimises product safety throughout the whole process.
Additionally, by integrating the very best of the electrical HR blowing and hot-filling technologies in one single, controlled production environment, the Sidel Matrix Combi hot-fill eliminates conveying, and allows hygiene and food safety to be maintained.
Once the beverage is filled and the bottle capped, safety and consistency are ensured by sterilising the head-space and
cap with Sidel's cap steriliser. It controls this process by tilting the bottle at a precise angle, temperature and contact time. This step puts all internal surfaces and air space in contact with the hot beverage, eliminating microorganisms. Sidel's system then cools the product while avoiding thermal stress, and preserving organoleptic properties, taste and colour.
The modular cooling configuration can be easily upgraded. Additionally, the advanced engineering allows a precise sizing of the cooler with a 20% reduced footprint and minimal water consumption compared with traditional methods.
Line integration with Tetra Pak processing systems can also lead to energy savings of up to 45% by recovering, for example, warm water from the cooler for preheating at the pasteuriser.
Sidel's holistic view helps producers optimise operating costs and reach the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). Sidel Services offers a tailored portfolio of maintenance, line improvement, training, spare parts and logistics, line conversion, and moulds and packaging services to help maintain, regain and even improve performance throughout the line's lifetime.
In this way, by partnering with the company producers get the benefit of having everything centred on a single, reliable global supplier.
"Once the productivity and performance targets of a line are reached, Sidel believes that the minimum goal should be to maintain and even improve these levels over the coming years," comments Gatti. "As new technologies and solutions are developed, the company offers line owners options and upgrades to ensure that existing equipment does not get left behind."
Having staff trained on new procedures and emerging methodologies to enhance their performance can also improve production by turning costly downtime into profitable uptime.