How new aseptic technology from GEA Procomac is giving an increasingly prosperous world what it needs and desires.
The world’s middle classes are growing. CNN reported last year that China now has an estimated 300 million people considered to be middle class – equivalent to the whole population of the USA; and the African Development Bank has a similar number of Africans, 34% of its population, who have lifted themselves out of poverty and become, officially, middle class.
With prosperity comes changing attitudes to consumption. No longer is food a matter of survival; it becomes a social event, a pleasure, an experience to be enjoyed to the full and discussed with friends. So, food producers need to evolve too to meet demand and satisfy the higher expectations of a new market that can afford more and has both the ability and the desire to seek out the best.
One area of food production that has taken a leap forwards this year is the beverage industry. A recent fashion has been for the development of drinks that also serve as foods. Beverages including cereals (liquid breakfast for the cash rich and time poor) and drinks containing chewable pieces of fruit, for example, that set them apart from their more ordinary predecessors.
But in an attempt to meet the demands of an increasingly discerning public, the beverage industry has fallen into a trap. These large pieces of fruit, nuts and cereals have to be fed through filling systems into bottles; carrier liquid density has to be carefully controlled to ensure an even distribution of solid matter; and, most critically, the product has to be adequately treated to prevent bacteria formation and provide an adequate shelf life without destroying its taste and nutritional value.
All these are areas of expertise for GEA Procomac, but it is in the last area that real strides have been made recently with the rise of aseptic filling technology. This most recently developed technique enables beverage companies to give customers what they want and maintain a sustainable manufacturing process that is kind to the environment and kind to their bottom lines too.
Most drinks containing solid pieces are filled into bottles or cans using a hot fill technique or are sterilized after filling in an autoclave. However this has a number of handicaps: the heat treatment – which has to be at a higher level to penetrate the solid pieces – can affect the taste and the nutritional efficacy of the drink; containers must be sufficiently robust to stand the temperatures and pressures involved in the process without distortion; and the whole process is extremely wasteful in energy.
To tackle this problem, GEA Procomac has recently launched the world’s first Aseptic Piston Doser specifically to handle beverages containing fruit, nut or cereal pieces of up to 10 mm3. This handles the whole bottling process aseptically, into super-lightweight PET bottles, eliminating the need for down stream heat treatment.
The benefits for the beverage manufacturer are considerable. Energy costs are dramatically reduced; dosing and carrier density can be more accurately controlled; super lightweight bottles reduce the amount PET consumed; transport costs are reduced because loads are lighter; and the cost of recycling used bottles is less.
For the consumer, the benefits are even more noticeable: the drinks taste great. The avoidance of heat treatment means that the drinks can be enjoyed exactly as they were intended – full of flavour and natural health-giving properties. Retailers, meanwhile, benefit from higher sales and long shelf lives.
As the world becomes more prosperous and the global middle class continues to balloon, so the demand for these high quality products will continue to grow. The companies that can best meet this demand, and do so in a sustainable way, will be those most likely to reap the rewards.