Consumers: what they are drinking today and what will they want to drink tomorrow?
“High acid” and “Low acid” beverages
In the field of aseptic bottling technology, that aims at not using preservatives, the grade of acidity of the product is the main factor that influences the choice of technology to be used and the global complexity of the process. Generally, the product acidity is defined by the concentration of ionic hydrogen (H+) present in the solution. The grade of acidity of the substance is measured in pH, which is a scale based on the activity of the ionic hydrogen in watery solution.
This is defined as follows:
"The grade of acidity of the product is the main factor that influences the choice of technology"
Generally almost all commercial soft drinks are acid. The entity of the acidity is however, very important since a major part of the bacteria develops better for values of pH near to neutrality, whereas when the pH diminishes their growth notably slows down. For this reason, in the case of aseptic bottling, two general subdivisions were created, that correspond in general to different production technology.
- High Acid Beverage (HA), when the pH is equal/lower than 4.5
- Low Acid Beverage (LA) when the pH is higher than 4.5
The borderline represented by pH 4.5 has microbiological reasons since under said level of pH bacteria of public health significance do not generate concerns for human health.
It is therefore clear as to how some of the most common drinks are suitable for high acid bottling whereas to bottle other drinks, such as those containing milk, it is necesary to use more complex systems dedicated to low acid products, where the reduction of initial contamination represents a higher factor of criticality.
Juices and Nectars
The segment of fruit-based beverages is rather vast and relatively heterogeneous. It comprises at least three large product families: juices, nectars and juice drinks (with a low fruit contents). The difference lies in the quantity of fruit used: 100% for juices (that do not have any added sugar), at least 25% for nectars (that may have added sugar or other sweeteners), and low content for juice drinks.
The low fruit content in juice drinks varies by product and typically has added sugar or other sweeteners. Juices and nectars have an estimated market volume (for the year 2017) of approximately 38 billion liters per year, and juice drinks add an additional 34 billion liters per year. Among the global juice drink volume, almost 30% is represented solely by 100% juices, but there are interesting growth trends in innovative beverages such as smoothies (fruit based drinks of a certain consistency and smoothness thanks to the presence of puree and fruit paste, often combined with yogurt or milk).
Among the major beverage consumers of fruit based drinks, the ranking reveals Canada (with approximately 55 liters per year procapite), Finland (43 liters), Germany (30 litres) and USA (26 litres). The Asia Pacific market alone represents approximately more than one third of the global market.
Sport drinks are beverages designed to act as a supplement during exercise and comprise a vast array of products that range from the complex nutritional solutions for professionals to the most common isotonic products for occasional consumers. These products are widespread among the large retail distribution chains. There are functional differences in this kind of beverages:
- Isotonics: these have the same saline concentration as body fluids; therefore they rapidly re-integrate liquids and minerals lost through sweating and supply energy thanks to their carbohydrate content.
- Hypotonics: these contain molecules in inferior concentrations as compared to those found in blood; thereby their re-integration action is faster than those of isotonics, but not so beneficial as carbohydrates.
- Hypertonics: (with more molecules as compared to blood) normally used to intake carbohydrates after physical exercise in order to top up muscle glycogen stores.
Tea and infusions
Tea is second only to water as the most widely noncarbonated consumed beverage in the world. Despite competition from soft drinks, tea still continues to have a significant success thanks to a number of factors. In addition to its organoleptic features, there are physical and chemical characteristics that render this legendary beverage still very much in fashion and very interesting for the development of innovative products.
Tea’s theanine content (alkaloide molecule structurally undistinguishable from caffeine) has an antidepressant and bland stimulative effect, that does not interfere with the sleep cycle and in general has no negative health effects. Tea is rich in mineral salts (such as fluorides, zinc, potassium, copper and iron) and so-called growth vitamins (group B1 and B2), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin P and others in minor quantities. Scientific evidence of tea properties has permitted tea to become asserted as a healthy product so much so that a number of producers have added to their range diverse versions, theanine-free, light and with biological raw materials, other than the now widespread green tea.
Tea flavouring allows producers to attain various flavours; the most widespread are cold lemon or peach teas; on a lesser successful scale, flavours such as orange, mandarin, apple and mint. Tea is a very delicate product since the various grades of aromas, the natural substances present in the product or the added active principles may undergo alterations during the industrial production process, which may undermine the intent to differentiate it from the others. This is where the bottling technology comes in and plays a decisive role in preserving the peculiarities of the formulations.
Sparkling products (in aseptic?)A number of regional markets have shown some interest towards fruit-based beverages with added carbon dioxide. An example of such a product is the German soft drink Fruchtshorle; its most popular version is based on apple juice. The level of CO2 is lower as compared to traditional sparkling drinks, whereas the high level of sugar contents makes this drink sensitive. Aseptic technology permits to bottle these products by eliminating the need to add preservatives. Given their contents of CO2, such products call for isobaric filling systems.
Historical perspective: Evolution of the technology from the Roman era to our day and age
"Aseptic" technology in the Roman eraThe word Aseptic originates from the Greek term Septic meaning putrid or producing putrefaction. Aseptic thereby denotes preventing putrefaction or not subject to infection. It is customary to associate the denomination Aseptic to modern times but in a certain sense, this is not really true. As a matter of fact, one could almost debate on the fact that we could be considered pioneers of Aseptic techniques and moreover that Aseptic is a recent innovation of our times, since the first notions of beverage preservation date back even to the Roman era.
The Roman "filling, capping and storage process"
Technologies to meet market demand
Use of preservatives
- Product Recipe
- Temperature of the supply chain of the end product
- Required shelf life
|Ultra clean||Hot fill||Aseptic fillling|
|Initial cost||Minor initial investment||Minor initial investment||Significant initial investment|
Light weight bottles and caps: Lower costs
|Heavy bottles and caps: Higher costs||Lightweight bottles and caps: Lower costs|
|Personalised containers||Personalised Bottles without limitations||Scarse possibility of personalised bottles||Personalised Bottles without any limitations|
|Product Treatment||Minor thermal treatment on the product||A more invasive thermal treatment on the product (especially in the event of an increase in the rate of product recirculation)||Minor thermal treatment on the product|
|Distribution Costs||Significant Storage and distribution costs (when using cold chain product distribution)||Low storage and distribution costs (distribution at ambient room temperature)||Low storage and distribution costs (distribution at ambient room temperature)|
|Running of the line||The line must be run by average skilled operators||The line can be run by operators with basic line experience||The line must be run by highly skilled line operators|
|Shelf life||Up to 60 days for sensitive products in the cold chain||Long shelf life of the product (up to 1 year)||Long shelf life of the product (up to 1 year)|
- A container sterilization system for either bottles or preforms;
- A cap sterilization system;
- A filling machine capable of filling and capping containers in aseptic conditions;
- An environmental contamination control system;
- A series of processes that feed the system with necessary fluids (nitrogen, air, water) at optimum conditions for proper functioning.
“The elimination of clean room and the simpification have globally boosted the market of aseptic lines worldwide ”
Aseptic Blow Filling
- An oven for preform heating (aseptic or non aseptic);
- A preform sterilization system (located before the aseptic blower);
- An aseptic blower;
- A cap sterilization system;
- A filling machine capable of filling and capping containers in aseptic conditions;
- An environmental contamination control system (microbiological isolator);
- A series of process machines that feed the system with necessary fluids (nitrogen, air, water) at optimum conditions for proper functioning.
Advantages and disadvantages of containers for beverages
Glass is a material with a very long history. The manufacturing of glass finds its roots in ancient Egypt, back in the II millennium B.C. Its use as a container for liquids started and expanded rather rapidly around first century A.C. thanks to innovations in blowing techniques carried out by craftsmen in the Roman Empire. Glass has always been used in the past centuries as a container for preservation purposes, for demonstrating and storing food, beverages and items without altering their taste, flavour, aroma, perfume and colour.
Glass is obtained by fusion at a temperature of at least 1200° C in special pit furnaces covered with special heat-resistant materials, of silicate sand with sodium carbonates and calcium. These materials are first transformed into oxides and then through fusion and after cooling, into a viscous liquid. The container is created from this liquid, using two methods: blow-blow and press-blow.
PETPET is an acronym for Polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic material which is part of the polyester family and can be used for food contact applications. PET is perfectly transparent, light, shock-resistant and can be produced in different colours.
The production of bioriented bottles in PET occurs in two phases:
- The first phase consists in creating a preform by injection mould of melted PET at 280-300°C in appropriate moulds with particular characteristics in terms of shape and thickness depending on the type of final bottle.
- The second phase entails blowing of the preform, at a temperature of 105-110°C, with a simultaneous axial and radial stretch.
Caps, closures, fitments
The caps cover a decisive role in preserving quality and are the main interface between product and consumers.
- To maintain the sealing during the entire shelf-life of the product
- To maintain the sealing even if the product is exposed to temperatures above or below those of storage
- To maintain the sealing also in the event of mechanical stress due to transport
- In the event of product contamination and consequent fermentation, it is possible that the pressure inside the single bottle will increase significantly. This will create a risk for the consumer, as when the bottle is opened, the over pressure inside will cause the cap to thrust open and therefore may end up harming the consumer. This is why the cap must be manufactured so that a gradual depressurization occurs when it is still applied to the bottle.
- very cap has a seal ring connected to the rest of it by means of bridges. The opening of the cap normally leads first to the breakage of the bridges and afterwards, to loss of sealing. In this way it is possible to visually verify that the bottle is no longer in aseptic conditions.
- The dimensions of the caps have gradually been reduced with the introduction of double and triple thread caps, as an alternative to the single-threaded cap. The risk is that a minimum rotation could lead to loss of sealing. In order to minimize this risk, it is fundamental to ensure that the capper performs a perfect closure torque application. This is why many cappers are now equipped with brushless gear drives that apply the required closure torque regardless of the line speed.
- Possibility of attaining the sealing performance without having to apply such a strong closure torque that makes it difficult for a certain category of consumers to open (children, elderly, ecc...)
- The cap can also be considered as active packaging: there are oxygen scavenging caps that absorb the oxygen inside the head space of the bottle and thereby prevent the product from oxidising.
Table of contents
1.Markets, opportunities, a comparison of the technologies
- 1.1. “High acid” and “Low acid” beverages
- 1.2. Juices and Nectars
- 1.3. Sport Drinks
- 1.4. Tea and infusions
- 1.5. Functional Beverages
- 1.6. Milk-based products
- 1.6.1. UHT Milk
- 1.7. Historical perspective: Evolution of the technology from the Roman era to our day and age
- 1.7.1. "Aseptic" technology in the Roman era
- 1.7.2. The Roman "filling, capping and storage process"
- 1.8. Technologies to meet market demand
- 1.8.1. Use of preservatives
- 1.8.2. Hot fill
- 1.8.3. Ultra-clean filling
- 1.8.4. Aseptic Filling
- 1.8.5. Aseptic Blow Filling
- 1.9. Advantages and disadvantages of containers for beverages
- 1.9.1. Glass
- 1.9.2. Polylaminate carton
- 1.9.3. PET
- 1.9.4. HDPE
- 1.9.5. Cans
- 1.9.6. Pouches
- 1.10. Caps, closures, fitments
- 2.The right direction of sustainability
3.Thermal treatment for product
- 3.1. Heat Exchangers for Liquid Products
- 3.1.1. Plate Heat Exchanger
- 3.1.2. Single Tube Heat Exchanger
- 3.1.3. Multi Tube Heat Exchanger
- 3.1.4. Triple Tube Heat Exchanger
- 3.1.5. Spiral Tube Heat Exchangers
- 3.1.6. Scraped Surface Heat Exchangers
- 3.2. Indirect and Direct Heating
- 3.3. Direct Heating UHT and ESL Designs
- 3.3.1. Direct Injection
- 3.3.2. Direct infusion
- 3.4. The best heat exchanger for your application
- 3.4.1. Heat Damage to food
- 3.4.2. System Selection Criteria
- 3.5. Conclusions
4.Understanding aseptic filling technology
- 4.1. Aseptic technology: an integrated system, not a series of connected machines.
- 4.2. Structure of an aseptic filling line
- 4.2.1. Sterilization
- 4.2.2. Container sterilization
- 4.3. Treatment of containers
- 4.3.1. Peroxyacetic Acid (POAA or PAA)
- 4.3.2. H2O2
- 4.4. PAA WET container sterilization
- 4.5. PAA vapour container sterilization
- 4.6. H2O2 CHP container sterilization
- 4.7. H2O2 VHP container sterilization
- 4.8. Preform sterilization technology
- 4.8.1. CHP sterilization
- 4.8.2. VHP sterilization
- 4.9. Cap sterilization technology
- 4.9.1. PAA spray sterilization
- 4.10. PAA immersion sterilization
- 4.10.1. CHP sterilization
- 4.10.2. VHP sterilization
- 4.10.3. Pre-sterilized caps handling
- 4.11. Energy-based sterilization without chemicals
- 4.11.1. UV light sterilization
- 4.11.2. Pulsed light sterilization
- 4.11.3. Ionizing radiation Sterilization
- 4.11.4. Electron beam sterilization
- 4.12. Aseptic Filling
- 4.12.1. Volumetric electronic filling
- 4.12.2. Weight filling
- 4.12.3. Other filling technologies
- 4.13. Capping
- 4.14. Bottle handling
- 4.15. Ancillary process equipment
- 4.15.1. Sterilizing solution production
- 4.16. Sterile water production
- 4.16.1. Utilities and fluids handling
- 4.16.2. CIP, SIP, COP, SOP
- 4.16.3. Integration of ancillary process units
- 4.16.4. Piping
- 4.16.5. Simplification of line handling
- 4.16.6. Radiation-based fluids sterilization
- 4.17. Line automation
- 5.Your new Aseptic Line
- 6.Good maintenance: the best way to preserve the value of the investment
- 7.Improved safety: for the product, for operators and for the environment
- 8.Aseptic filling and FDA
9.Sell Aseptic to sell "more" and sell "better"
10.The Future of Aseptic