Sidel has installed a complete, flexible PET line to handle sensitive beverages and carbonated soft drinks for Bickford’s Australia. This is the first time Bickford’s has invested in aseptic technology with dry preform decontamination.
Bickford’s, founded in 1839, is a beverage manufacturer. It has a diverse offer, producing carbonated soft drinks; cordials; flavoured water; still and sparkling water; juices, dairy and non-dairy drinks; syrups; and alcoholic beverages. The company based in Adelaide and exports to 32 countries.
Bickford’s made the investment in the new PET line because it needed to handle still and sparkling products, as well as low and high acid products with two different short bottle necks and two distinct decoration possibilities.
Angelo Kotses, Bickford’s CEO and owner, said the company had been mainly familiar with hot-filling PET applications.
“We decided to partially shift to aseptic PET bottling because we wanted to optimise our production set-up and achieve a better total cost of ownership, which is of course critical if you plan to attract more consumers,” he said.
“Plus, we wanted to diversify our product portfolio by introducing new references, including dairy products and plant-based alternatives, and by moving some drinks formerly packaged in glass and can to PET.”
For such a project, Bickford’s needed an expert in packaging development, bottling machinery, production, and services. The company chose Sidel for the project, and invested in a complete, versatile PET line that can manage sensitive product and carbonated soft drink through an Aseptic Combi PredisTM and a Combi SF300, respectively.
The new system gives Bickford’s the benefit of a wide branding surface to apply both sleeve labels and pressure-sensitive labels.
The line has expanded manufacturing capabilities in terms of volume and type of beverages, while switching quickly from one product to another.
In total, the new line now processes more than 20 different SKUs including still water, coffee with milk, coffee with almonds, four different flavoured waters, and eight types of juices – all in either 250 millilitre, 500 millilitre or 1 litre formats. The first sellable product from the new line was introduced to the market last year.
Bottle and decoration design capabilities
Throughout the project, packaging experts from Sidel worked in close collaboration with Bickford’s marketing team to launch the new products.
Beverley Reeves, senior brand manager at Bickford’s, said the company was looking to achieve an iconic shape to help the brand stand out in the crowded fields of bottled water and carbonated soft drinks.
“Our new bottles needed to offer convenient handling to our consumers and be robust enough to hold their ergonomic shape and carbonation once opened,” Reeves said.
For the project, Sidel designed new containers for the 1 litre Aqua Pura branded water, applicable both to sparkling and still water, with the latter supported by the StarLITETM base. To accommodate future needs, Sidel also developed an additional 600 ml design, perfectly applicable to a variety of recipes, including flavoured water.
A redesign was also necessary for the family of drinks previously packaged with hot-fill technology. In this case, the priority was to optimise the packaging while keeping the same premium brand attributes, also decreasing the weight of the bottle.
By changing the production set-up from hot-fill packaging to aseptic PET bottling with dry preform sterilisation, Bickford’s halved the weight of their 1 litre juice bottle – down to 32 grams – while enhancing its attractiveness and expanding its shelf life up to eight months.
The new bottles are designed with straight body panels with simplified ribbing at the sides to allow the application of either sleeve labels or PSL; the biggest format (1 litre) engraved with the iconic Bickford’s brand name.
“To streamline our decision process, Sidel provided many bottle design alternatives and great conceptual designs with current labels as well as new prototypes,” Reeves said.
“Considering the productivity advantages we gained and the high consumer acceptance around our redesigned containers, we are planning to strengthen the cooperation with Sidel further and launch a 1 litre format for sparkling products, for water as well as carbonated soft drink,” Reeves said.
Flexibility for product variety
Bickford’s has also installed a low-speed aseptic line as part of its move towards premium products and small-batch production.
To accommodate the new equipment, the company reorganised its production setup and raw material localisation. Space for the new line was made by removing two of three hot-fill lines. The challenge for Sidel’s team was completing installation without disrupting the production routines, while also securing the hygienic requirements needed in aseptic production.
The new versatile PET line, set-up at the Adelaide plant, includes Tetra Pak Processing Systems technologies, guaranteeing full product safety and maximising uptime starting from the process step. Additionally, the Aseptic Combi Predis is completed by the Capdis system for dry cap decontamination, while the CSD Combi features the compact and hygienic BlendFILL configuration, combining carbonator and filler in a single system for reduced consumption of carbon dioxide. Gebo OptiDry, a fully washable, stainless steel drying system with a proven efficiency of over 99 per cent is integrated. As part of the line, Bickford’s opted for Sidel’s proven roll adhesive labeller, plus a sleever intended to handle PSL.
Bickford’s line manages both aseptic and regular PET packaging on two different Combis, thus dealing with products featuring two different bottle necks, namely 28 millimetre for carbonated soft drinks and 38 millimetre for the aseptically-bottled products.
They chose to use one single end-of-line (EOL) solution to maximise uptime, as changeovers are very easy with one EOL. Bickford’s EOL includes a VersaWrap wrap-around case packer and a PalAccess palletiser. Both pieces of equipment are designed with multi-format versatility and fast and simple format changeovers in mind.
The line is now running at 12,000 bottles per hour (bph) for the aseptically filled drinks and up to 18,000 bph for the carbonated soft drink products, with a greater efficiency than the one committed on the purchasing agreement, thus contributing to a production capacity reaching approximately 60 million bottles per year.
George Kotses, Operations Manager at Bickford’s, pointed out that being able to switch switch from one product to another does not compromise the sterility of production.
“The PET aseptic line in our factory runs 10 hours per day and Sidel managed to keep the product in the filler under complete food safety conditions between the last shift of the day and the first one the day after, meaning for more than 12 hours,” he said.
“The Combi Predis offers a very competitive cost-efficiency ratio and a great environmental footprint because it does not consume any water and uses only very few chemicals. The solution allowed us to drastically reduce the bottle’s weight.”
Kotses said the system also reduces the need for cleaning in place and lowers maintenance costs.