A thirst for innovation

Interpack 2020 to showcase solutions for the beverage industry

Beyond Juice bottles are also available in foil-free batches. The Nature MultiPackTM packaging solution holds the bottles together using easily soluble yet powerful glue dots. Photo: KHS GmbH
Beyond Juice bottles are also available in foil-free batches. The Nature MultiPackTM packaging solution holds the bottles together using easily soluble yet powerful glue dots. Photo: KHS GmbH

By Melanie Streich

The perspectives for the global beverage industry are excellent, as data provided by the British market research institute Euromonitor International and the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association show. According to this data, 947 billion liters of beverages were consumed globally in 2018. By 2023, the demand is expected to increase even further – by 16.3% to over one trillion liters (1,101 billion liters).

As the global population increases, so do beverage sales. This growth is especially apparent in emerging national economies, known as the BRICS states. These include Asian, Latin American or African, countries in which the population has a high pent-up demand for consumer goods.

Rising export figures

Accordingly, the global demand for filling machines has also increased. According to VDMA statements, filling and capping machines worth over EUR 7.4 billion (approximately Rs 57,000 crore) were exported around the globe in 2018, 3.6% more than in 2017. The beverage industry accounts for a high share of these exports. Germany is the export world champion. The country exported filling and capping machines worth more than EUR 2.3 billion (approximately Rs 17,000 crore) in 2018. This is equivalent to an increase of 5% compared to 2017. Italy is right behind in second place, with an export value of more than EUR 1.4 billion (approximately Rs 11,000 crore). This number has increased slightly, by about 0.3% compared to 2017.

German production of beverage filling machines reached EUR 2.2 billion (approximately Rs 17,000 crore) an increase of 1% in 2018, whilst production of beverage manufacturing machines reached EUR 552 million (approximately Rs 4,200 crore) – an increase of 6.7% compared to 2017.

Changed consumption conditions

Global consumption of beverages has increased; at the same time, beverages are now being consumed in a completely different manner. Consumer demands regarding the quality and sustainability of products and packaging have increased. Customers today are both well-informed and sensitized. When selecting products, they tend to make more conscious decisions and attach greater importance to ingredients and their origins. As a result, many consumers are actually prepared to pay more for regional and hand-made products.

The increase in out-of-home consumption and the desire for more convenience has lead to rising demand for individual beverages in light-weight packaging and smaller batches.

Furthermore, the share of consumers that belong to the 50+ generation is higher than average in the field of beverages, with almost 40%. In the future, these best agers will become more and more important as a target group for beverage suppliers. Low-calorie, high-quality and healthy beverages are extremely popular. At the same time, the Silver Generation expects packaging to be designed in a way that makes it easy to open and just as easy to reseal.

Demands on the industry

Flourishing markets invariably promote more competition and intensify the pressure beverage manufacturers are already under; these face fluctuating prices for raw materials as well as considerable price competition in the food retail trade. This calls for energy-efficient, resource-conserving and flexible solutions for a closed circular economy.

The beverage industry needs to be able to react to the continually changing demands of consumers and trade by providing a variety of products in increasingly shorter intervals. This requires continuous, new product modifications as well as new developments, combined with specific marketing measures for different target groups.

In this area, digital printing offers maximum flexibility. Marketing strategies can be implemented overnight, without having to worry about first using up bottle labels currently in stock. The printing process can be used on the new virgin PET as well as on rPET and uses inks that can be removed from the PET without any residue during recycling.

The beverage industry, as well as the associated process and packaging industries, are excellently positioned to meet these rising challenges and offer numerous innovations with regard to machine availability, production, and process optimization as well as the use of digital solutions and Industry 4.0 measures.

These will be exhibited at the upcoming interpack, which will take place in Düsseldorf from 7 to 13 May 2020. A total of 1,544 exhibitors have confirmed that they will be presenting solutions for the beverage industry – including the latest developments along with the entire machine and equipment value chain, from various types of containers to materials and recycling. Hall 13 is a key area.

Sustainable products and packaging

When it comes to products and packaging, more and more consumers are paying closer attention to sustainability aspects, and are consciously choosing healthier, regional, fair trade and organic products. Beverage manufacturers and packagers are reacting to customer demands with intelligent technologies, machines, and equipment that conserve resources as well as with recyclable materials that can be used in closed cycles.

Global beverage brands, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are banking on sustainable raw materials and 100% recyclability when it comes to primary and secondary packaging. By 2025 – 2030 at the latest – Coca-Cola, for example, aims to return one item of packaging to the recycling cycle for every item of packaging that is brought to market. The company also plans to make every bottle fully recyclable.

In 2019, the beverage giant presented the first sample bottle, which is made of 25% food-grade ocean plastic. In the course of this partner project between Ioniqa Technologies, Indorama Ventures, Mares Circulares (Circular Seas) and the Coca-Cola Company, an initial 300 bottles have been produced, with the aim of illustrating the potential of ‘enhanced recycling’.

According to company statements, this innovative method is to ensure that in the future, used plastic – regardless of its quality – can be turned into high-quality plastic. “These enhanced recycling technologies are tremendously exciting. And not just for us, but for the entire industry as well as society. They are accelerating our prospects of a closed reusable materials cycle for plastic. That’s why we are investing in these technologies,” says Bruno van Gompel, technical and supply chain director at Coca-Cola in Western Europe, when asked to explain Coca-Cola’s commitment.

Holistic recycling

The Krones group’s MetaPure recycling plants are one example of enhanced recycling technologies. These plants can recycle between 150,000 and 200,000 tons of PET bottles in a year – in various material qualities, including food-grade PET. The objective is to ensure that beverage bottles and another plastic packaging can be recycled completely, including their materials.

Krones subsidiary Dekron presents another successful example – the DecoType Select direct printing machine. The machine can print on containers made out of 100% rPET using ink that can be removed from the PET without any residue during recycling.

100 % rPET

At the end of 2019, the German system provider KHS first presented its packaging development that focuses on the entire life cycle to the public. The aptly named Beyond Juice is a new bottle development for sensitive beverages such as fruit juices. The recyclable PET bottle is made out of 100% recyclate and is equipped with the FreshSafe PETâ barrier solution. This ensures that fruit juices and spritzers have an up to ten times longer shelf life compared to uncoated plastic bottles. A wafer-thin glass coating makes this possible, preventing oxygen from entering the bottle and carbon from escaping.

“Beyond Juice is more than just a fruit juice bottle; it is our tangible answer to the challenges the beverage industry currently faces. In light of the current discussion on plastics, environmentally friendly and practical solutions are becoming more and more important,” says Philipp Langhammer, product manager – Barrier Technology at KHS Corpoplast.

The label area is particularly small, this allows sorting facilities to identify bottles as PET bottles and thus recycle them without problems. The right glue furthermore ensures that labels can be removed easily, and prevents contamination during the recycling process.

“The seal on the label allows consumers to take the truly excellent recyclability into account when making their purchasing decisions at the supermarket,” emphasizes packaging engineer Julian Thielen, who works for Interseroh, an environmental services provider.

When sold in batches such as six-packs, no foil is used; instead, the bottles are held together by glue dots, which can be removed easily during recycling. “By eliminating the surrounding foil, we have further reduced packaging waste by up to 90%,” says Langhammer.

Energy-efficient plants

Sustainable product solutions need smart production processes that increase energy efficiency during production, lower carbon emissions in the long term and reduce material and resource consumption. Digital interconnectivity and monitoring help optimize product quality and plant availability.

Next-generation bottle fillers, for example, require up to 20% less energy, and at the same time reduce carbon emissions by up to 50% – all thanks to optimized vacuum pumps. “We have installed pressure sensors in every single filler valve. These sensors seamlessly identify any deviations from set values as well as breakages,” says Manfred Härtel, product manager – Filling at KHS, explaining the automated processes used in the Innofill Glass DRS bottle filler. A camera-assisted controller monitors the high-pressure injection system and regulates the development of foam, which in turn reduces product losses by up to 50%. The use of process warmth combined with lower water consumption during cleaning also have a positive impact on the machine’s energy balance and reduce production costs.

Artificial intelligence

At the end of 2019, the Ende group introduced the prototype of a self-learning filling valve to the public. Aided by artificial intelligence, the valve is expected to optimize the production process whilst at the same time significantly reducing operating and maintenance costs. “To achieve this, we have developed cyber-physical systems that allow the valves themselves to find the best way to fill a certain container with a certain beverage – in the most efficient manner and as quickly as possible,” says Jochen Ohrem, expert of R&D Management at KHS, explaining the new development. When learning, the valve focuses on self-configuration, analysis, self-diagnostics and, finally, self-optimization.

Augmented Reality

interpack exhibitor Krones AG also uses viable technologies. The German group offers its customers 24/7 support offered by service specialists, using remote support to troubleshoot and resolve problems should unscheduled downtimes and short-term difficulties occur. In addition to conventional support by phone, plant operators can also request augmented reality support. This option uses smart glasses, which give the support specialists virtual, on-site access.

Augmented reality support: Smart glasses provide immediate support when plants malfunction. Photo: Matthias Jeserer, Krones AG
Augmented reality support: Smart glasses provide immediate support when plants malfunction. Photo: Matthias Jeserer, Krones AG

However, Krones banks on prevention to ensure that one day, downtimes will be a thing of the past. The data-based system is able to identify and resolve weaknesses in the production process at an early stage. Support specialists continuously monitor the production process; they access the machine’s data from the outside, notify users of emerging problems in due time and guide plant operators through the troubleshooting and resolution process should worst come to worst.

Autonomous production is the future

Innovations like these, and the many others that will be exhibited at interpack 2020, prove that smart factories are no longer visions of the future but are already a reality today.

We do not need a crystal ball to predict that cyber-physical systems (CPS) will be a dominating presence in the future of beverage production. Unaided by humans, these systems independently control production and processes, share information among one another, and plan and trigger actions independently. This is certain to affect operation processes in companies, but it won’t stop there. We can expect this new technology to include partners, suppliers, warehouses, and customers, which will all be connected to one another.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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