Trade secrets on display
Packaging machinery and processing equipment are joined at the hip, and there were plenty of innovations in both at March’s Anuga FoodTec show.
Upbeat and furtive might best describe the mood of exhibitors at March’s triennial Anuga FoodTec show in Cologne, Germany, where 42,000 international visitors were invited to see—but not touch or photograph—the latest technical advances from 1,334 exhibitors, including 36 US-based companies.
The Eurozone’s financial crisis remains a country-specific calamity, and the show floor reflected it: As many exhibitors came from Iceland as from Greece (one each). The host country was home to almost half of the exhibitors, and those firms’ outlook bordered on gleeful. Friedbert Klefenz, president of Waiblingen, Germany-based Robert Bosch GmbH Packaging Technology, says his firm expects growth of at least 7 to 8 percent this year, on the heels of 10 percent growth in 2011. Some of that increase will be powered by Bosch’s new SPC liquid filling system that combines the speed of vertical form/fill/seal with the economy of rollstock film.
The SPC filler supports Bosch’s new SurePouch flexible packs, which bear a striking resemblance to Smart Bottles (see “Kraft says ‘yes’ to flex,” Food Engineering, March 2012). “The machine has a much smaller footprint [than a horizontal machine], the film is cheaper (than preformed pouches), and the packages are cheaper to make,” notes Klefenz. Flexible packages deliver distribution advantages over rigid containers and are gaining acceptance: “It is a basic requirement in China and India,” he says.
A Russian firm took ownership of the show-floor model, the second SPC filler built (the US Army has serial no. 1). Four bag styles can be formed, with speeds up to 60 eight-oz. pouches a minute. UV light sterilizes the film prior to forming, and after the pouch is sealed, a cap up to 30 mm in size is ultrasonically sealed to the outside. When the cap is twisted, flanges on the inside rip the film, allowing the contents to pour. (No pictures were allowed while visiting the booth.)
Sidel International AG was another camera-shy exhibitor, though its Predis aseptic packaging and filling system, which rivals the bulk of Larry Ellison’s yacht, dominated the exhibit hall. Some of its mass comes from the integrated blowmolding unit, where preforms become PET bottles. The machine’s distinction is sterilization technology: Instead of a hydrogen peroxide or peracetic acid rinse, a minute amount of H2O2 goes into the preform and is vaporized during blowmolding, eliminating the sterilization waste stream. The heat created during blowmolding comes “close to killing everything, but not quite,” observes Françoise Raoul-Duval, sensitive products vice president at Le Havre, France-based Sidel. “”With aseptic, you don’t compromise. You still need H2O2” to sterilize. Compared to conventional sterilization, however, chemical use is negligible, and the cost of wastewater handling is eliminated.
A rinser would be redundant, and elimination of that equipment saves space. The current setup is considerably more compact than the earliest version, though the footprint remains substantial. A smaller, low-throughput version will be released next year, according to Raoul-Duval, and a 20 percent improvement from the current 20-cavity blowmolder that outputs 40,000 bottles an hour should be available in the coming year.
Sidel also showcased a prototype of its Stack & Pack palletizing system. With it, the neck and shoulders of PET bottles interlock with the concave bottom of the bottles above them, providing pallet stability without the need for stretch wrap. The design accommodates 10 layers, a significant advance over the six layers in conventional pallets. Bottles ranging from 250ml to 1 liter can be stacked. Based in part on feedback from show visitors, Raoul-Duval expects numerous refinements and changes will be made before Stack & Pack becomes commercially available.
After sitting out the 2009 show, Tetra Pak returned to Cologne with a vengeance, with a 52,000-sq.-ft. booth that occupied almost half of one of the show’s 11 exhibit halls. Among the equipment and package advancements featured was StreamCap, a polyethylene cap made from sugar cane waste materials. Nestlé Brazil pioneered use of the carton closure last year with two milk brands.
For more information:
Johanna Marquette, Bosch Packaging Services AG, 41 58 674 74 16, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Cariou, Sidel Blowing & Services SAS, 33 2 32 85 89 47, email@example.com