Aseptic filling providing more stable smoothie solutions - supplier

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sig combibloc Drink Juice

A supplier of carton and filling technology claims recent developments it has made in aseptic carton filling are helping to negate potential sales risks of moving into the challenging, but desirable smoothie segment.

SIG Combibloc told that after providing many different solutions for aseptic filling of high viscous food products like sauces and desserts, it has been able to extend its operations for the increasingly popular fruit smoothie segment.

Cartons are not the only format currently being used to store the thick, often fruity beverages though, with some groups like leading manufacturer Innocent also looking to innovations in recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) bottles to supply some of its products.

Despite these rival developments in plastic technology, SIG Combibloc, which specialises in carton design and filling, claims its products are particularly suitable to production challenges linked to the segment.

Production challenges

Norman Gierow, head of Sig Combibloc’s non-carbonated soft drink segment, says that smoothies can prove to be a lucrative market for manufacturers, although they must be ‘optimally positioned’ in order to avoid sales risks like spoilage.

This positioning, according to the company, involves ensuring the drinks are distributed and stored in closed cold chain system to prevent rapid deterioration as a result of the sensitive products’ formulations.

Gierow claims that gentle aseptic processing like the systems provided by the company can help to reduce the risk of detrimental flavour changes in the product during filling.

“The aseptic filling technology treats the product very gently and ensures that even at the industrial production level all the healthful ingredients of a smoothie are fully retained,”​ he says.

Ensuring stability in the supply chain is a key driver in ensuring smoothie drinks can continue to meet consumer needs across Europe and worldwide for more natural or nutritious products, the company says.

“This filling technology and the features of the carton packaging are of particular interest in market regions where a closed cold chain is unfeasible,”​ adds Gierow. “Gently packaged in aseptic carton packs, premium smoothies are safely protected and can be transported and stored in a space-saving manner without refrigeration or preservatives.”

Future innovation

Beyond just meeting current market needs, SIG Combibloc claims its carton filling products allow plenty of room for product innovation by making use of devices like ultrasonic sealing. Once filing has taken place, the company says it can then seal the package above the filling level and not through the product allowing for use of chunkier ingredients.

“Whether it is pieces of fruit, vegetables or cereal grains, the flexible filling technology of SIG Combibloc opens the way for the types of product concept that combine drinks and pieces of natural ingredients to create an incomparable whole,”​ claims Gierow.

Market potential

In the Western European market alone, consumption of juices, smoothies and fruit nectar drinks is expected to reach 11 billion litres by 2012 from 10.3 billion litres in 2007 on the back of health potential, according to analyst Zenith International.

Gary Roethenbaugh, market intelligence director for the analyst, said last year that the image of fruit-based beverages as natural, healthy and convenient alternatives to other types of soft drink has led to growing availability of the products on shelves

One major trend the analyst identifies is in the continued emergence of smoothie products that, while originating in the UK, are now gaining popularity across the region, according to Zenith.

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