Self-heating packaging for baby formulasSelf heating infant nutrition

Dutch start-up company Aestech has developed a new packaging innovation – a self-heating packaging for semi-liquid food, particularly baby food. Unlike existing self-heating packages, which contain pre-mixed beverages, this self-heater has a separate chamber in which the milk powder is stored.

Currently there are three hot topics in the packaging world. The first one is the dispensing cap, which we find mainly on top of a water bottle for inserting a certain dose of vitamins. It is a packaging format which over the last few years has attracted an increasing number of beverage companies, but now moves to other applications.

The second item is self-heating packaging, up till now concentrated around coffee and tea beverage cans and more recently soup, but is moving to the solid food segment of the on-the-go market. The third trend is the convenience of on-the-go packaging, a fast growing market segment which spreads wider and wider from ready-to-eat meals and lunch snacks into convenience packaging for outdoor activities.

This new innovation solves the inconvenience to feed babies and toddlers with a milk powder baby formula when on-the-go. Although the market has seen interesting innovations in packaging for this type of product, all of them maintained the wrestling of parents with a box of powder, a measurement spoon, a baby bottle and a nipple, after which the parents on-the-go have to look for a heating facility, before finally the baby can enjoy its meal.

The answer comes in the form of self-heating packaging, including a milk powder dispenser, the necessary spring water and a baby nipple. This new packaging system has been developed by Dutch Aestech in Eindhoven.

This self-heating packaging has a separate chamber/dispenser in which the milk powder is stored, while the heating-element is located at the bottom of the largest chamber, which holds the spring water.

In other words it isn’t a pre-mixed product as the ingredients (vitamins and milk powder), are stored separately from the spring water, staying dry till the moment of consumption, maintaining the power of the supplements. To be sure that the heating element is fully surrounded by the to-be-heated liquid (the bottom as well), the heating element, made from aluminium, stands on small columns. This is of utmost importance, not only to guarantee the best possible heat transfer, but also to prevent the heating element with its sometimes brusque exothermal reaction from melting through the bottom of the plastic packaging.

This design is a deviation of the common practice with self-heating beverage cans, for example, where the heating element is an integrated part of the bottom of the packaging and where the activating button, consequently, is also located. In the Aestech design the activating button is at the top of the packaging and the heating element is separated from the bottom by free-flowing liquid.

Of course, the baby formula application in this is of importance as much less energy is needed to bring the milk product to the correct temperature of 37°C in contrast to roughly 62°C for coffee.

The packaging consists of four compartments or chambers. The top compartment (or dispensing chamber) with the activation button holds the dry matter (milk powder and vitamins) and is sealed air tight with a foil. The space between the dispensing chamber and the heating element is the compartment which holds the to-be-heated liquid, p.E. spring water. The heating element is fully immersed in the to-be-heated liquid to guarantee an intensive contact between the liquid and the element and to prevent a direct contact with the heating element by the consumer.

The heating element itself is filled with a certain quantity of calcium oxide that thermally reacts with water to calcium hydroxide heating up the element. The water needed for this exothermal reaction is located in the tube, which runs from the heating element to the activating button at the top of the packaging.

After removing the cover seal, the activating button can be engaged through which the film seal between the powder dispensing chamber and the compartment holding the spring water will rupture and the dry matter (milk powder) will drop into the compartment below, which holds the drinking water.

By pushing the activation button a second action will occur simultaneously as the pressure will push the water in the tube into the heating element. Consequently an exothermal reaction with the calcium oxide will take place. The heating element heats up and the heat is transferred to the milk powder/water mix around the heating element.

After approximately two minutes and a bit of shaking of the packaging the baby formula has reached the appropriate temperature of 37°C the nipple can be put in place and the baby or toddler can be fed.


Let there be no light“Now we have a packaging solution that protects the milk and does its job perfectly.”

In a world first, Anchor releases a packaging innovation that protects the integrity of milk and cream by preventing light damage.

For the past three and a half years Anchor’s innovation team has been working on a packaging solution to combat the effects light has on the taste profiles of milk products and the result is a three layer 100 percent Light Proof™ bottle.

Craig Irwin, group marketing manager Fonterra Brands New Zealand says that Anchor has been exploring new ways to ensure New Zealanders get the best tasting milk for the past three years.

“In order to judge freshness, a lot of consumers habitually ‘sniff test’ their milk before it goes into the glass, coffee cup or cereal bowl. Research shows that around seven percent of all fresh milk is thrown out because people think it smells ‘off’. But what people are smelling is typically the result of light damage. The key insight around light damage is that even a small amount of light is enough to start the process. Packaging options such as fresh milk tetra cartons and white opaque bottles allow between seven percent to 25 percent of light through. This is enough to kick off the process of light damage, generating noticeable changes in taste within two days, and ultimately generating a failed ‘sniff test’.

“We have also observed that milk consumption is declining. This innovation is about reversing that trend and giving people more enjoyment from their milk, and, for many, a reason to reconsider drinking fresh white milk altogether.”

Fonterra Brands NZ’s innovation manager, Olaf van Daalen says the Light Proof bottle was actually the result of research into another fresh milk packaging option – a single serve product in glass and PET for the food service market where the bottles would be stored on ice.

“However, we realised the taste was terrible and we asked why. We realised it was the light effect on the milk,” Mr van Daalen says.

Fonterra Brands NZ’s innovation manager, Olaf van DaalenWe were also looking at age profiles of milk in different volumes. We realised some milk is in the supply chain for two to five days. The key things around freshness are temperature and the quality of the milk but we can’t control the light. We started to survey products and realised there was significant light effects in the trade – about a third of bottles we tested were light effected – depending, of course, on supply chain channels.

“Initially we looked to reduce visible light with a coloured bottle, which slowed down the light effects but didn’t prevent it. The milk was at risk during its shelf life by lighting,” Mr van Daalen says.

The solution is a triple layered format where the inside and outside layers are opaque white so that milk looks good and recognisable on the shelf. The middle layer is coloured black and blocks out 100 percent of light. The middle layer uses the colourant carbon black, while titanium dioxide (TIO2) is used to colour the internal and external layer. Both are approved food contact safe materials.

Anchor’s new Light Proof bottle is made from the same HDPE recyclable plastic as the existing bottle. The bottle cap has not changed and is also easily recyclable. The only change for recyclers is the new bottle is coloured plastic as opposed to clear.

At Anchor’s plant in Takanini is the only change to the production line is the blow moulding process. The dimensions of the bottle remain the same and run through the production line in the same manner as the previous packaging.

Peter McClure, managing director Fonterra Brands New Zealand says – “This innovation is great news for consumers who will now enjoy better tasting milk and cream, and it is a game-changer for the fresh milk market. Anchor has developed a way to actually protect the taste and goodness of fresh milk, which the average New Zealander consumes at a rate of about 1.8 litres per week.

”Our triple-layer, 100 percent Light Proof bottle is the most significant innovation project we have undertaken at Anchor. We have developed sophisticated new technology backed by extensive research to apply the concept of light proof packaging to fresh milk and cream for the first time in New Zealand, and as far as our innovation team can determine, in the world. Our bottles now do a better job of protecting what’s inside, and delivering milk and cream that tastes the way it was intended to before it has been impacted by light.”

Mindy Wigzell, nutritionist Fonterra Brands New Zealand says not only is milk a rich source of calcium, it also contains protein and a number of essential nutrients that are integral to the good health of New Zealanders.

“As the leaders in dairy nutrition we have a role to play in providing the best milk possible to New Zealanders. We have learned that protecting milk from light not only maintains its fresh taste, it also protects some key nutrients that are degraded by light, like vitamins A and B2. We anticipate that the greatest nutrition benefit of Light Proof may well come from people drinking more of it because it tastes better throughout its shelf-life, which has the potential to have a positive impact on the nutritional intake of New Zealanders of all ages.”

Mr van Daalen says that the taste of light effected milk due to oxidation damage leaves a tallow fatty note on the tongue and doesn’t clear the mouth right away.

“But now we have a packaging solution that protects the milk and does its job perfectly.”


South African office extends tna’s global presenceSouth African office extends tna’s global presence

Packaging solutions specialist, tna, announces the opening of a new regional office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The move demonstrates the company’s commitment to strengthen its presence in the region and forms part of tna’s global expansion strategy to reinforce its leading position in the international packaging industry.

As the continent’s largest economy and with rapidly rising levels of urbanisation and increased consumer spending over the past few years, South Africa is a key market for the global packaging industry. Traditionally used as a gateway to Africa, South Africa provides tna with direct access to one of the most promising new markets in terms of stable future growth. Based in Johannesburg, the company’s new office will host tna sales and service staff and will provide the company with a direct link to their growing local customer base in South Africa and across the continent.

“We are pleased to further expand our global reach with the opening of a new South Africa office,” says Michael Green, managing director - tna. “We’ve been actively involved in the African market for over 10 years and are excited about the opportunity to provide our customers here with a dedicated contact base. Our new office in Johannesburg will not only allow us to react to local trends and developments quickly, but more importantly it will enable us to better serve our growing customer base in the region. Together with our representative in Egypt, we are now very well positioned to cater for the specific needs of customers across the entire African continent.”

The South African office is the company’s third facility opening in 2013 and follows the successful introduction of a new office in São Paulo, Brazil and the launch of its European manufacturing hub in Birmingham, UK.

tna is a leading global supplier of integrated food packaging solutions with over 6,000 systems installed across more than 120 countries. The company provides a comprehensive range of products including spraying, distribution, seasoning, weighing, packaging, metal detection and identification solutions, plus system controls & integration solutions. tna’s unique combination of innovative technologies, extensive project management experience and 24/7 global support ensures customers achieve faster, more reliable and flexible packaged food products at the lowest cost of ownership.


O-I launches new lightweight wine bottle offering environmental benefitsO-I launches new lightweight wine bottle

The country’s only glass container maker, O-I, is launching a new 750ml lightweight burgundy wine bottle which is almost 10 percent lighter than its predecessor but retains its premium look and feel.

Manufactured at O-I’s Auckland plant, the bottle’s weight has been reduced from 450g to 407g and has been adopted by local wine brands Saint Clair Family Estate, and New Zealand Vineyard Estates – producers of Mud House and Waipara Hills wines.

Improvements to the bottle’s design deliver environmental benefits including: a nine percent reduction in CO2 per container and a nine percent reduction in water per container.

O-I New Zealand’s director of sales and marketing, Andrew Sharp, says the new burgundy wine bottle had been designed to offer a standout lightweight alternative for a range of world-class New Zealand wines such as sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, chardonnay and aromatic wines.

“Our lighter 407g burgundy bottle will appeal to local wine customers in search of a packaging option that supports their own environmental programmes and helps to secure export opportunities,” says Mr Sharp.

Saint Clair Family Estate chose to package its Vicar’s Choice 2012 sauvignon blanc in the 407g bottle to support the company’s export business.

“O-I’s new burgundy bottle provided us with a lighter alternative particularly suited to export markets such as Canada’s which only accepts wine in bottles weighing 420 grams or less,” says Liz Chapman, production manager, Saint Clair Family Estate.

New Zealand Vineyard Estates’ use of the lightweight bottle for its Mud House and Waipara Hills ranges complemented the company’s broader efforts towards improved sustainability across its business.

“We’re always open to exploring new innovations in the wine industry and our use of this bottle has helped us to improve our sustainable position in a global marketplace,” says MJ Loza, chief executive, New Zealand Vineyard Estates.

“It has also minimised our environmental impact, by reducing glass use and improving transport efficiencies.

“O-I’s lightweight bottle also reduces the weight of cases providing health and safety benefits to our domestic and export partners, something I’m sure they’ll value highly.”

The newly packaged New Zealand Vineyard Estates wines will be available for purchase at all leading liquor stores.

The Saint Clair Family Estate wines will be exported to Canada.


High Speed wide mouth jar cutting solutionHigh Speed wide mouth jar cutting solution

Maer of Girona Spain, specialists in the design and manufacturer of high speed rotary trimmers for neck cutting of plastic bottles and containers, has released their new WM500 TC 10 rotary cutting machine for the high-speed , low-cost production of PET large mouth containers for products such as mayonnaise and sauces.

The WM500 TC machine is designed to cut off the dome of a PET container that produced for blow-trim technology. This technology allows for the efficient and low cost production of wide mouth containers by using standard narrow-neck pre-forms, eliminating expensive injection mould tooling and saving energy, resins and cycle times.

The wide mouth finish is built into the same bottle mould rather than into the pre-form. The blow moulded jar has two portions – the threaded neck finish and an upper dome that is removed in an online process. This provides processors with a lightweight, unbreakable jar alternative to those made of glass.

The new machine has outstanding versatility, as it enables the handling of containers which do not require cutting to pass through the on-line machine, saving a bypass of the cutting machine. It can process necks with diameters ranging from 45mm up to 110mm.

A large Russian manufacturer has recently installed four of the WM500 TC10 rotary cutters, with a capacity for cutting 14,000 receptacles per hour in formats from 250 to 900ml.

Maer is represented in Oceania by HBM Packaging Technologies.


New label design for wineryAllan Scott wine

One of New Zealand’s most respected wineries has unveiled a new label design across its estate range.

The Allan Scott Family Winemakers premium brand imagery was created for its Estate White Label range with the company’s pinot gris and chardonnay the first to showcase the new design on shelf.

Winemaker Allan Scott says the new vintages of pinot noir, gewürztraminer are set to follow and will feature the new label in the coming months.

“We wanted to keep the identity, logo and colours largely the same and keep the familiarity of such a well-known label, but we’ve now used a superior quality stock paper to reflect the quality of the wine,” he says.

The changes have not been limited to just label design with the winery’s 2012 sauvignon blanc also undergoing a makeover.

The wine’s clear Bordeaux bottle has been replaced with an antique green French burgundy bottle again illustrative of the premium quality of the wine says Mr Scott.

“We wanted to ensure our packaging was modern and distinctive and also a true reflection of the taste and quality of our wines. We believe that with the new bottle and label design we’ve managed to capture the essence of what our brand represents,” he says.

Mr Scott says in an extremely competitive export market it’s important to maintain a presentation edge, particularly where decisions are made at the point of purchase.

“We know that consumers buy with their eyes so it was important to make sure that existing and new customers are aware of the quality of the wine which we are able to communicate through our packaging,” says Mr Scott.

The new look bottles are designed for both the local and international markets and Mr Scott says the company has been careful to ensure there is continuity between the old label and newer refreshed version.

“Wine lovers will now potentially perceive the wine as better quality but we have only made subtle changes and refrained from introducing a total redesign of the label, the last thing we want is to have loyal fans having trouble trying to find us on shelf!” he says.

Mr Scott says the winemaking family worked with the team at Creative Practice to create the revamped label.


We need to digest Europe’s new food information ruleGary Hartley

By Gary Hartley GS1 New Zealand

Basic fact – people want good information about the food they buy and eat. Second basic fact – food producers and retailers must provide such information in response to market forces and regulatory obligations.

These are established facts of life for food and grocery companies in any developed economy. And actually, life is about to get much tougher for those who provide food and food retailing services in Europe. A new European Union food information regulation (referred to simply as ‘the FIR’) will substantially raise the bar for what constitutes ‘good’ information and for how it is provided to consumers. Regulation 1169/2011 will apply to European companies from December 2014 – and perhaps to New Zealand companies with supply chains that end in European supermarkets!

The FIR, the first major update of EU regulations in this area since 1979, is worth a close look wherever you are in the world. At the least, it points the way for possible future regulation on food information in countries such as New Zealand.

In its own words the FIR applies to all food information “made available to the final consumer by means of a label, other accompanying material, or any other means including modern technology tools or verbal communication”. It substantially extends the list of particulars about food that are mandatory for inclusion on labels, websites and so on.

For starters, country-of-origin disclosure requirements are extended to sheep and pig meats (being already mandatory for beef, fish, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables). Food product ingredients must be listed in more detail. This will include showing “energy value”, amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. The word “sodium” has been replaced by “salt” for consumer clarity. All parts of the mandatory nutrition declaration should be in the same field of vision on the packaging. The label must mention if food has aspartame/aspartame-acesulfame salt. Beverages with high caffeine content must also be marked.

All pre-packaged food products must indicate on the label if they contain specific ingredients which are identified as causing allergenic reactions in certain people or to which individuals can be intolerant to. The FIR extends this requirement also to foods sold loose in restaurants, take-away outlets, canteens and over deli counters. The date of minimum durability of a food has also been introduced, and means “the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored”. In the case of foods which are highly perishable, the date of minimum durability must be replaced by a clear “use-by” date.

In short, Europe is moving to higher standards for disclosure about food contents and origin. The FIR makes it clear also that this information must be available before purchase decisions are made – and that includes remote purchase decisions. In fact, one of the key drivers has been the explosion of “distance selling” to European customers, mainly through the Internet. It seems clear that where food products are being offered for sale online, all the information that must be disclosed about it will also have to be immediately-accessible online.

In Europe, the GS1 organisation commissioned independent analysis on the implications of the FIR. The conclusions are far reaching. Food brand owners will have to make all the necessary information available to food retailers in a website-friendly form and for this, the two parties will need robust systems for co-operation whenever new products are being introduced or existing products are being modified. Of course, products and ranges of products are changing all the time.

Globally, GS1 is in the business of helping brand owners, retailers and others share digital information on products using standardised identifiers and data formats. As Europe and its suppliers, near and far, prepare for the FIR from December 2014, there will be a lot of work going on to ensure that data synchronisation and other systems are properly in place to meet the new requirements.

Basic facts do not change, but we do business, shop and eat in a fast changing world.


Double dragbar sealing jaws for high-quality vertical bag sealsDragbar

The new double dragbar sealing jaws for vertical bag sealing are a lucrative and cost-reducing alternative to traditional sealing systems with a vertical sealing belt.

With this new system the packaging machinery specialist Rovema continues to optimise productive form, fill and seal machines for the benefit of the machine users.

The retrofit is possible on almost all types of continuously running Rovema machines with a central fin seal and offers compelling advantages in terms of maintenance and wear.

Discarding the teflon tape and the silicone rubber backing on the filling tube as well as the sealing belt and the brass sealing insert essentially reduces the maintenance required by the vertical sealing system.

The resulting reduction in downtime leads to an increased machine availability and a high quality vertical bag seal along with a simplified set-up as well as lower operating costs.

The retrofit option consists of a vertical sealing system with two sealing jaws, a bracket with pneumatically driven actuator, a cooling for the vertical seal with device for the fold down of the fin seal, adapter components for installation on the existing vertical sealing system mounts and the addition of a heating zone.

Furthermore, the control software and the display will be adjusted according to the machine type.


TPE as a legally food-safe material

A cross-section of industries has been preoccupied with TPE (thermoplastic elastomers) for several decades. This is a development which Actega DS has already anticipated by focusing on TPE as a sealing material which is free of PVC and phthalates.

Already in use since the early 1980s as a sealing mass for crown caps and subsequently for aluminum and plastic seals, complex development over several years produced Provalin as the world’s first and to date only sealing material free of PVC and plasticizers for vacuum twist caps.

For the protection of the consumer and in line with the demands of the food industry, it was possible to dispense with the use of PVC and the plasticisers contained therein, thereby avoiding a potential impairment to smell, taste and health. The development of a sealing compound may appear to be a small step but it can give rise to a revolutionary change when combined with the associated technology. Today, Provalin seals are available for a variety of applications and products, and TPE materials are used in a wide variety of markets such as the equally highly-sensitive environments of medical technology, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics also represented by Actega DS.

The high recognition of TPE gave rise to an independent event. For the past fifteen years, the TPE Conference has been held annually as a top event in the sector. From London to Amsterdam, Brussels to Berlin, the Conference attracts the attention of leading European TPE manufacturers, processors and end consumers. This year’s Conference on November 13 and 14 in Berlin focuses on developments for medical technical applications and in the packaging sector, general market developments, new TPE materials especially with regard to their organic proportion, biopolymers, high-temperature TPE and flame-retardant compounds. In its capacity as a TPE expert, Actega DS was asked to provide some insights into the world of TPE and to present the developments and applications for the areas of food packaging, medical technology and pharmaceuticals.


KM Packaging puts the lid on triple tray challengeLidding

A leading global food provider has enlisted the help of KM Packaging Services Ltd to develop a packaging solution for a new pre-prepared meal concept, which comprises raw meat and vegetables in a three compartment A’PET tray.

Designed to fit in with today’s busy and health conscious consumer lifestyles, this new approach to pre-prepared meals is a direct ‘cook in pan’ option using fresh ingredients. With over four varieties in the new range, the compartments of the trays have a protein, vegetable and a carbohydrate, which all require different packaging atmospheres.

The challenge was to develop a lidding solution to support all sections of the dish. The protein element required an oxygen barrier and the compartment gas flushing to help extend product selflife. The sections of the tray containing vegetables and carbohydrate needed the lidding film to have laser perforated holes bespoke to each compartment, thereby allowing the necessary levels of respiration for each product.

KM Packaging has designed and engineered a radical, high clarity film lidding solution suitable for all three components, which has been developed from a unique blend of polymers able to withstand demanding processing conditions, whilst retaining optimum seal integrity.

With over two decades of experience in developing bespoke lidding solutions, KM Packaging efficiently identified the correct perforation formats, precisely register the perforations and accurately ensure enough tolerance on the surrounding film area.

Dedicated product trial runs were carried out at the food manufacturer’s site to ensure that KM Packaging’s carefully structured lidding film reels would work in sync with the sealing equipment and the selected A’PET tray.

Renowned for providing high quality, reliable lidding film, this complex lidding film composition from the leading flexible packaging specialists, delivers incomparable product safety through superior seals.

To be displayed on retailer shelves with just a watch strap sleeve, another vital feature of the lidding film was keeping the film clear through its superior anti-fog characteristics. Highly visible to consumers, the film represents the quality of the product and therefore had to show strength and superior clarity for maximum shelf appeal.

“Although there were many different food types to consider for each meal, we were able to demonstrate our industry knowledge and quickly advise on the technical characteristics of the film including the perforation specifications for each. Knowing the behaviour and varying respiratory rates of different fresh produce items proved invaluable to being able to complete the project on time,” says KM Packaging’s UK and Ireland business manager, Alan Lockhart.

“The lidding film material chosen for the range combines sophisticated high barrier sealing for maximum product safety with first-class film clarity. As one of the first lidding solutions of its kind we are proud to report that the performance of the film has far exceeded the expectations of our customer and has had extremely positive feedback from the retailers as well.”


Packaging Council releases Version 2 of its Code of PracticePackaging Council releases Version 2 of its Code of Practice

The Packaging Council of New Zealand (PAC.NZ) has released version two of its popular Code of Practice.

“The success of the first version of the Code of Practice for packaging design, education and procurement was the practical layout which took the reader through the conflicts of environmental demands for packaging versus the demands for food safety, product protection and an efficient/effective supply chain,” says PAC.NZ president Richard Manaton.

“The Code is written in a way to ensure it isn’t too technical to understand by non-experts, but detailed enough for packaging decision makers. The updated version builds on those attributes, but now includes performance indicators from the Consumer Goods Forum’s new Global Packaging Protocol, the draft ISO standards for packaging and the environment and a selection of appropriate indicators from the Global Reporting Initiative. By including global best practice, we have a Code of Practice which meets the needs of the New Zealand market, but is internationally aligned.

"In New Zealand we are confronting new challenges as the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 begins to bite with local councils implementing their local waste minimisation plans and engaging with local businesses. The Commerce Commission is also taking a harder line on misleading environmental claims and the Government is working on tightening up the Fair Trading Act to require all claims to be substantiated. The purpose of our Code of Practice is to take the user by the hand and lead them through the minefield.”

The Code of Practice is underpinned by the fundamental principle that good packaging design prevents more waste than it creates. It assists stakeholders in the design, manufacture and endof- life management of packaging to minimise its environmental impacts. The approach of the Code is to manage the sometimes conflicting demands of the market criteria for performance and cost, consumer protection and the environment while recognising the need for a sustainable society.

“Much has changed both globally and locally since we first launched our Code of Practice two years ago. We have seen the packaging waste debate shift from simply focussing on packaging recycling rates to understanding the opportunities across the whole-of-life of packaging to eliminate waste in the first place. The issue of product wastage, particularly food waste, dominates global concerns related to the resource losses this wastage represents. The use of packaging, and in particular the technological advances in packaging materials, plays a crucial role in mitigating these losses,” says The Packaging Council’s executive director Paul Curtis.


Craft beer in a canDavid Blossman is predicting a huge rise in market share for craft beer in the USA

Craft beer in cans? Yes, it really does work. Abita Brewery is one of the USA’s first craft breweries to serve the market with this packaging variant, produced on a completely new filling line able to handle both glass bottles and cans.

Not only has this privately owned brewery thus paved the way into a highly propitious future for its hand-crafted beers, it has also upped its filling capacities many times over, significantly enhanced the level of its filling quality, but above all has upgraded its flexibility quite enormously. The Varioline packaging system, in particular, opens up for what is the biggest and oldest craft brewery in the USA’s southeast undreamed-of options for the all-important situationally responsive marketing of its beers. Prospects for Abita are very auspicious, as they are indeed throughout the entire US craft beer industry.

David Blossman was 17 years old when the Abita Brewing Company was founded back in 1986. He was an enthusiastic fan of home brewing even when he was a youngster. “I just loved the idea of brewing beer yourself, if at all possible in your home town environment.” So he invested all his in Abita, thus acquiring a one percent stake. Mr Blossman was the second-youngest of six brothers, the rest of whom were already going out to work. He persuaded them with his enthusiasm, and one year later the six of them acquired a majority holding in the Abita Brewery. However, it was to take another ten years before he became the managing director. In the meantime, he had passed his CPA (certified public accountant) examination and spent several years working as a financial manager.

1996 to 2002 were difficult years for the USA’s entire craft brewing scene, and Abita did not escape unscathed. In 1996, the brewery was already selling 36,000 hectolitres with four types of beer and five seasonal beers. 1989 saw the start of bottling and of putting distribution, which had previously been handled in-house, in the hands of outside professionals. It was now up to David Blossman to cut costs and improve quality levels, both in the brewing and the bottling processes.

The brewhouse, being too small as it was, was in operation six days a week round the clock. Every brewer had his own personal style, the beers weren’t reproducible and their quality was inconsistent. In 2000, Mr Blossman installed Steinecker’s first Merlin brewhouse outside Europe, where to this day all For fi lling its bottles, the brewery had a modularised Modulfi ll HRS (VPKV) installed, monobloc-synchronised with a Variojet rinserof Abita’s beers are made.

He also introduced new beers – a lite version, a number of special beers, and the ‘Select’ series of draught beer. In 2011, Abita sold 146,000 hectolitres of beer and 10,000 hectolitres of root beer. The six Blossman brothers still own a majority holding of 70 percent in this successful brewery to this very day. At present, Abita is ranked 25th among all of the USA’s commercial breweries, and is this nation’s 17th-largest craft brewery, with its products sold in 44 states. In order to preserve its beers’ freshness and quality, the brewery distributes them with a fleet of refrigerated trucks.

The privately managed brewery, backed up by loyal investors, is the biggest and one of the oldest craft breweries in the south-east of the USA – in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

When it comes to the actual brewing, Abita relies on technology from Steinecker. In 2000, the brewery was the first outside Europe to use the radically new Merlin wort boiling system, which reduces the boiling time from 90 to 35 minutes, thus downsizing energy consumption by 70 percent. In addition, a vapour condenser recovers process steam into the bargain. The four vessel brewhouse, designed for a brew size of 120 hectolitres, makes for an annual capacity of 150,000 hectolitres, given a brew duration of 4.5 hours. By shortening this first to 3.5 and then to a mere three hours, thanks to an additional heat exchanger and a product holding tank, plus faster removal of the spent grains, Abita is now able to run no fewer than eight brews a day.Currently, Abita uses the Varioline to pack the 355 millilitre bottles on open 24 bottle trays

To ensure that its beers are properly fine-tuned in terms of both aroma and taste, Abita is keen to add hops three times over: bittering, flavouring and aroma hops. Some of the beers are additionally dry-hopped in the storage tank, like Jockamo I.P.A. and Restoration Ale, for example. Prior to filling, the beers are cold-filtered, first undergoing separation in a centrifuge and then final filtration in a sheet filter. Stabilisation is dispensed with.

As demand kept on growing and growing, it was high time to think about installing a new bottling line. The existing one of Italian manufacture, dating back to 1999 and rated at 9,000 bottles an hour, had long since reached the limits of its capacity.

“The more we asked of it, the lower its efficiency became”, Mr Blossman says.

“We wanted the new line to give us more capacity, and enhanced levels of both efficiency and bottling quality, plus way more flexibility."

Fill level accuracy was no longer adequate, pasteurisation was not reliable enough, labelling and end-of-the-line packaging left a lot to be desired, with efficiency levels falling towards 80 percent. The new Krones line, which started operation in November 2011, enabled David to translate his ideas into hands-on bottling reality: the line’s speed, at 24,000 bottles an hour, is more than double that of the old line, the efficiency targeted is over 90 percent, the oxygen content in the glass bottles is a minuscule 0.1 milligrams a litre (or even less), and fill level accuracy is spot-on, thanks At Abita, the Varioline comprises five modulesto high-precision filling and immediate inspection in a Checkmat FM-X, which also checks the bottles for proper closure position. Abita is still using the traditional, shortnecked 355-millilitre “Heritage” bottles, where the headspace is significantly smaller than in the modern long-neck bottles, thus minimising the amount of air inside the bottle.

Abita achieves the high levels of flexibility it had been aiming for in two different ways: firstly through a parallel layout configuration for the bottle and can fillers, and secondly through the Varioline packaging system. For filling its bottles, the brewery had a modularised Modulfill HRS (VPKV) installed, monobloc-synchronised with a Variojet rinser.

“I was really taken with the Modulfill’s no-front-table concept, which is much, much more hygienic. And anyway, I’d prefer servomotors to gearwheels any time. They make for faster change-overs, which in turn boosts flexibility. The same applies to the Solomodule labeller – fewer mechanical parts, more electronics mean more flexibility.”

Alternatively to bottling, Abita, with its Volumetic VOC can filler, for the first time has an option for canning its beers, likewise at a speed of 24,000 330-millilitre cans an hour.

“We didn’t want to be the first craft brewery to fill beer in cans. For quite a long time, consumers were definitely a bit sceptical about beer in cans, thinking it was somehow inferior. That has now changed.”

Does the image of beer brewed in the finest of craft traditions really fit in with the idea of canning it? For a long time, Abita found it difficult to make up its mind. How would canned beer be received by its glass-loyal consumers? How would Abita beer taste when drunk from a can? In the end, it was two considerations that tipped the scales in favour of cans: firstly, glass bottles have been banned from many public events due to the injury risk they pose, not least during the parades of Mardi Gras.

Every year in spring, this carnival of New Orleans, famous the whole world over, enthrals hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors from all round the globe, who are, unsurprisingly, partial to celebrating with one or more local beers during the parades. However, beer in cans also comes in handy when you’re out fishing, golfing, enjoying yourself on the beach or at parties.

Another important consideration was how the Abita beers would taste when drunk from cans.

“For years on end, consumers had been associating craft beer exclusively with glass bottles. Beer from cans always conjured up an imagined taste of metal. But not only have acceptance levels changed, the technology for aluminium cans is quite different nowadays, too. We’re relying on present-day cans offering a qualitycompliant solution for protecting the taste of our beers.”

The insides of the new Abita cans are coated with a water-based layer reliably preventing the beer from coming into direct contact with the aluminium surface, thus preserving its unadulterated taste. In addition, the can protects the beer inside against UV irradiation, which is responsible for accelerating ageing of the fresh beer.

And last but not least, the deleterious effect that oxygen has on freshness is minimised by state-of-the-art canning technology from Krones. In parallel to the new bottling line, Abita installed a volumetric Volumetic VOC can filler with 36 filling valves, rated at 24,000 cans an hour. The cans are packed in six-packs and twelve-packs, and also into 24 can cartons, at an hourly output of 1,000 cartons.

But the biggest flexibility-booster is without a doubt the Varioline, one of the very first to be installed by Krones worldwide.

At Abita, the Varioline comprises five modules. If, for example, four six-packs and a full-depth tray are packed, the work sequence looks like this: the first module folds the wrap-around cartons, the second packs six bottles at a time into one of these, in the third the fulldepth tray is folded, and the six-packs are closed simultaneously. The fourth module packs the four six packs on a full-depth tray, with the fifth module finally pushing the tray onto a conveyor belt.

Mr Blossman is extremely confident as far as the future of his own brewery and that of the entire craft brewing industry is concerned.

“We have been growing steadily since 2000, over the past seven years at an average of 15 percent a year. Our target for 2012 is an increase of 20 percent. Craft beer is gaining more and more adherents because Americans are busy discovering the taste of full-bodied beers. Once consumers have had their eye-opener, or to be more precise: taste-bud-opener, they tend to stay with it. Thanks to the craft-brewing movement, we can currently observe a downright taste revolution in the field of beer, with a cornucopia of variants to choose from. Sales keep on growing even when the economy falters, like in the past few years. The people drinking our beer are relatively well educated, they like good food, they are open to experimentation, and they appreciate a really good beer. Quality by doing without additives, and an abundant choice of variants – that’s where the craft-brewery sector excels.”


Total packaging solutions at Gulfood 2013tna robag® FX 3ci high speed vertical form fill and seal packaging machine

Packaging firm tna will be showcasing its total packaging solutions at Gulfood 2013 with a range of products combined to represent a complete integrated production system on stand.

Comprising the tna roflo® HM 3 conveyor, tna intelli-flav® OMS 3c, tna roflo® VM 3 cross feeder and tna robag® FX 3ci high speed vertical form fill and seal packaging machine, this equipment will demonstrate the efficiencies achieved by integrating tna’s innovative products on one manufacturing line.

Visitors to the stand will be able to see the high performance packaging solutions in action, and learn how products such as snacks and confectionery are distributed, seasoned and bagged by tna’s packaging systems. The tna roflo® HM 3, a horizontal motion conveyor, distributes goods while minimising losses and breakages, while the tna intelli-flav® OMS 3c is a complete, one-piece solution for both wet and dry seasoning and flavouring. Its exceptional performance provides even coverage at throughput rates of 100-500kg per hour for a wide variety of applications.

A further distribution solution, the tna roflo® VM 3 is a vibratory motion conveyor, which rapidly yet gently transports any product with continuous flow, and smoothes out any build up for optimal output efficiencies. Products can then be bagged efficiently using the high performance tna robag® FX 3ci, which offers throughput rates of up to 150bpm on snacks. With innovative new features including the new tna intelli-weigh® 0314 omega multi-head scale, the tna hyper-detect® metal detector and tna flo-thru former®, the tna robag® FX 3ci provides manufacturers with up to 30 percent improvement in performance.

Bachar Ghadri, regional manager of tna Middle East says, “We’re delighted to be returning to the biggest show in the region. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our integrated production lines and demonstrate how our products work in synergy to maximise performance, without sacrificing end product quality.”

tna installs systems in more than 120 countries and offers project management and 24/7 support services to customers globally.

For information and advice on how tna can help manufacturers achieve optimum performance and efficiencies, visit stand #S1-A62 at Gulfood, Dubai.


New cylindrical KeyKeg with double wall technologyThe Double Wall™ technology provides high resistance to damage, very low deformation and high pressure resistance. A multi-layer inner bag contains the beer, wine or soft drink and protects it from contact with propellant gas during dispensing. The sleeve is securely applied on the inner container, providing extra visual depth. It is used for the communication with the end user, including safety devices and QR codes

Lightweight Containers has launched the first member of a new generation of KeyKegs: the cylindrical KeyKeg20. The new one-way keg owes its unique characteristics to an invention called Double Wall™ technology, which surrounds the bag containing the beverage. This latest addition to the KeyKeg family will be available starting in Q1 2013.

Applying the Double Wall technology has resulted in a cylinder inside a cylinder. Its two walls work together dynamically, giving the KeyKeg resistance to higher internal pressures and extreme low deformation at high pressures. Even soft drinks, stouts and other highly carbonated beverages can be filled in the new KeyKeg.

Like its predecessors, the KeyKeg20 houses a flexible multi-layered inner bag, which contains the beer, wine or soft drink. The content is dispensed by pressurising the space between the bag and the ball. The beverage maintains best drinking conditions as it does not come into contact with the propellant gas when it is dispensed.

The new one-way kegs will be extremely resistant to external influences. They withstand very high temperatures during transport in hot climates and moisture has no effect on them. Being especially resistant to damage from outside, this KeyKeg is even safer to use. It is also good news for the environment. More than half (54 percent) of the KeyKeg's shell is made from recycled PET, while the grip consist of 100 percent recycled PP.

The cylindrical shape provides improved logistical qualities. Now 80 cylindrical KeyKeg20 units fit on one pallet. This shape combined with its low weight mean that 65 percent less transport is needed for the cylindrical KeyKeg compared to steel and other kegs.

The new design is an explicit reflection of its users' needs. The new KeyKeg has an ergonomic grip, it is lightweight and extremely stable. It also takes up even less space than its predecessor and fits easily in existing cooling cabinets.

The fully automated production line in Den Helder, the Netherlands, has a capacity of 400 KeyKegs per hour.

Jan Veenendaal, chief executive officer of Lightweight Containers said: "The current KeyKeg is already a quality leader in this market. The fact that we've decided to introduce a new generation of KeyKegs has everything to do with our vision for the future. We think in terms of the total supply chain. We are only happy if the bar keeper, distributor and beverage producer are happy too. Hundreds of companies in the total supply chain in 45 countries have asked us a lot and taught us a lot. The result is the cylindrical KeyKeg20!"

Bert Hanssen, R&D director of Lightweight Containers said: "We have worked continuously for two years to develop the Double Wall™ technology and the cylindrical KeyKeg20. We wanted to make a cylindrical keg for a long time, but we couldn't get it to meet our high requirements for deformation, resistance to damage and high internal pressure. Newly developed PET-processing technologies like laser cutting and ultrasonic welding suddenly brought the cylindrical shape within our reach. This enabled us to fulfil all the wishes of the entire supply chain in the design of this KeyKeg."

For more information:


Check label compliance on new websites

Maryland-based FDA consulting firm,, has launched five new labelling websites that allow companies with products that are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration to receive a label review in order to identify any compliance issues with their product label.

The streamlined process allows users to easily upload their label files for free, get a reasonable and flat-rate estimate, pay online and receive a comprehensive label review report in as little as three days. The report provides a detailed analysis of every inch of the product label, identifying what is compliant, what isn’t and what could be changed in order to avoid problems with FDA. The regulatory background behind the recommendations is also provided so that companies can avoid making the same mistakes on future product labels.

With separate label review websites for the food, drug, supplement, cosmetic and homeopathic industries, companies can drastically reduce the time and costs associated with FDA compliance, especially if the label review occurs before the product goes to print or ships. This is preventative maintenance at its best.

“Labelling compliance is more important than ever,” said Benjamin England, chief executive officer of

“FDA takes it very seriously and can prevent products from ever coming to market because of a misleading statement, health claim, incorrect Drug or Nutrition Facts panel or wrongly named ingredient.”

Many companies aren’t even aware that they have non-compliant labelling claims until the FDA stops their product from being distributed. In fact, some claims can change a product’s regulatory classification from a cosmetic to a drug or from a drug to a food – with severe implications for the manufacturer.

With most importers and many domestic companies being small businesses, a container or shipment that’s refused, detained or destroyed by FDA can lead to a severe loss of profit or even shut down the company itself.

“We hope that these new label review sites can help reduce labelling errors across the board for all products,” said Mr England.

“It’s not just smart business for food or cosmetic companies, it actually helps make the landscape safer for consumers.”

The new labelling websites are: