From Asia to America and Eastern Europe, the market for soft drinks, fruit juice and other non-alcoholic beverages is growing at a dynamic rate. At the same time, the range of available products is becoming evermore diverse and varied: new-age drinks, isotonic and healthy drinks, for example, are bringing differentiation and future revenue opportunities to what is, essentially, a mature drinks market.

Thirst for new

From an application perspective, the beverage industry has a healthy innovation pipeline; new products are constantly being developed and launched, including variants of traditional beverages (flavored beers, for example). As a result of product differentiation and the use of regional formulations/ingredients, both the craft beer market and the functional and healthy drink sector are witnessing strong growth. And, as formulations continue to become increasingly complex, there’s a growing demand for flexible processes and packaging formats. 

As a result, in both established and burgeoning markets, manufacturers around the world are benefiting from components, systems and integrated plants for the production and preparation of juices, syrups, soft drinks, concentrates, coffee, alcohol, wine and beer. Beyond innovative product differentiation and end-product quality, however, producers are increasingly focusing on the environmental and sustainability aspects of beverage production systems and solutions that are becoming more commonly integrated into modern plants. 

Keeping it green

Not only is the global population increasing, the average level of per capita income is also rising. And, as the sales prospects for process technology tend to rise disproportionately with increasing household income, in the growth markets of China, India, Russia and Eastern Europe, GEA is increasingly expanding its position in beverage production and preparation. Furthermore, with more and more people contributing to urbanization and becoming city residents, GEA is also aspiring to develop innovative solutions for intelligent food and beverage processing and the more economic use of energy sources. 

Technologies such as aseptic filling, centrifugal separation and filtration, advanced distillation systems, more efficient heating and cooling plant, emission-reduction facilities and cleaning accessories that minimize the use of environmentally relevant materials and reduce the consumption of water, natural feedstocks and energy resources are available. And, more efficient, modular plant design, straightforward installation and low maintenance mean that customers in the beverage industry can benefit from significantly lowered operating costs, while the quality and ecological aspects of their production systems are maximized. 

“Consumer desire to protect the environment for future generations is becoming an important business issue. As all major food/drink organizations have to report their environmental performance, and with initiatives in place to improve both CO2 production and water utilization targets, the time will soon come when consumers use data about the amount of water used and CO2 produced to make products in their purchasing decisions,” noted Ricardo Davi from GEA’s beverages application team.

Marketing communication specialist, Monica Melloni, added: “We at GEA must constantly seek to develop better and better technological solutions. It’s no longer possible to develop a new machine or system that is not significantly more efficient — and usually more compact, too – while maintaining the same level of performance. Nowadays, economic viability is defined in terms of ecology and sustainability.”

“Reduced resource consumption, fully exploiting energy regeneration, fewer parts, less use of space and improved working conditions; these are today’s selling points. In some respects, our customers see us as do-gooders; but a manufacturer of investment goods can only achieve differentiation and stronger customer benefits by being a technology leader. And only innovative companies can be technology leaders,” she adds.

Saving Resources, Saving the Planet

GEA TechnologyTalks Sustainable Solutions infographic

Worldwide, approximately one third of all instant coffee is produced with GEA machinery, and one of every four liters of milk will have been obtained using the company’s milking equipment. Moreover, one in two liters of beer passes through at least one of our components and more than a quarter of all commercially processed meat products have been formed, cooked, grilled or fried by GEA equipment.

However, the food and beverage production chain involves many different stages and players, from farmers and suppliers to logistics companies, retailers, consumers and, finally, waste managers, all of whom have an environmental impact. To effectively implement a successful strategy of sustainable production, transportation, consumption and recycling in the food and renewables supply chain, the integrated involvement of every participant throughout the entire product lifecycle is an absolute prerequisite.

Each person and company involved must operate both as a responsible individual and also as a team player. By improving their own carbon footprint and employing best practices, each player can improve the environmental performance in their direct sphere of influence and, in addition, help to motivate other food chain partners to improve their performance and, ultimately, contribute to a supply chain that is greater than the sum of its separate parts.  

In a recent report, FoodDrinkEurope commented: “Countless food and drink companies have integrated energy and carbon management into their daily business practices and are achieving impressive results. The challenge lies in helping under-performing companies to catch up, while encouraging frontrunners to further improve on their achievements. Long-term carbon reduction targets require intensified efforts among businesses, authorities and the research community to align R&D with industry's needs and to foster the economic competitiveness of emerging technologies.”

With sustainability at its core, the food and drinks industries are all set for continued growth in the upcoming years, driven by an expanding global population growth and higher household incomes, especially in the emerging markets. GEA’s mission is to supply innovative solutions for intelligent food and beverage processing and the economic use of energy sources, keeping both people and the planet healthy, and engineering for a better world. 

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