Gentle filling, good taste, long shelf life – the trend to cold aseptic filling
Aseptic filling is making it possible to bring innovations onto the market – even in highly sensitive products – in a short space of time. The various aseptic filling techniques are proving to be very gentle on the product and its ingredients and no preservatives are needed. The vitamins are also retained. And that fits in very well with the major market trends towards more natural products, health benefits and a pleasant aroma.
Trend towards reducing cleaning and sterilising media
For Holger Kahlert , Vice President Filling Technology at Krones, the general trend in aseptic filling is towards a significant reduction in cleaning and sterilisation media: “The plant operators want to move away from the classic wet-aseptic with peracetic acid or dry sterilisation with hydrogen peroxide towards chemical-free systems, for example using irradiation. ‘No water, no life’: if the isolator always remains dry and no chemicals are used, then micro-organisms have no nutrient to feed on, and no contamination can arise,” he says.
The background to this trend is on the one hand the positive effect it has on overall operating costs (Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO), and on the other the dry isolator improves hygiene levels on the machine as a whole.
Block concept preferred
More and more fillers are opting for a mechanical/electronic block concept with the blow molder integrated into the aseptic system. Potential cost and space savings are the biggest attraction here, because there is no need for an air conveyor. In addition, by doing away with this ‘contamination stretch’, it’s possible to achieve greater microbiological safety. Integrating the blow molder with the filling system into a single block is achieved through intelligent control systems which in the event of a machine fault can compensate for the missing buffer stretch between the two machines.
Aseptic filling for products with ‘added extras’
Interest is high in the fruit juice industry for aseptic filling for products that have added ‘bits’ in them.
Until now juices that contain pieces of fruit were generally hot-filled, either as a whole product, or separately as the juice and the fruit pieces. The separate processing of fruit pieces in fruit juices is currently gaining ground mainly in the Asian region. Fruit juice fillers, however, are now demanding even more gentle treatment of the product through aseptic techniques, and along with this, machinery manufacturers are developing filling valves and systems that can cope with these products.
Cheaper alternative: ‘Enhanced hygienic filling’
A (cheaper) alternative to aseptic filling is ‘enhanced hygienic filling’ or EHF, which is being recommended by various manufacturers for both mildly and strongly acidic beverages.
Says Kahlert: “Combined with an integrated block of blow molder and aseptic system, this method disinfects the PET preform and not the container.” That saves both on components as well as sterilisation media, and caters to the wish to move the sterilisation process as far downstream of bottle disinfection as possible.
Preform sterilisation gives beverage filling under ultra-clean conditions further opportunities for reducing costs and increasing eco-compatibility.
Aseptic systems for smaller outputs
Another trend in aseptic is the production of smaller batches. There is a demand for aseptic systems for smaller outputs which allow greater flexibility in making different products, and also enabling SMEs to get some traction in the market. As a rule with aseptic systems, too, the emphasis is on up time in the factory, and this implies short change-over times and shorter cleaning times. The industry is also aiming to reduce the area taken up by the clean zone by limiting it to core areas where the containers are sterilised and filled.
The key trends in aseptic filling will be on show at drinktec 2013, the world´s leading trade fair for beverage technology, which takes place in Munich, at the Messe München exhibition center, from September 16 to 20, 2013.
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