BeverageDaily.com learnt the news after an independent PepsiCo bottler, which wished to remain anonymous, sent us a copy of a letter sent by Becky Michaels of PepsiCo Global Food Safety, in Arlington, Texas, to all plant and quality managers.
Dated August 8 2012, this letter announces the approval of ECA across PepsiCo’s network, and said the process would enable bottling plants to produce their own cleaning and sanitizing agents.
The process produces a simple solution of water and food grade salt, which is passed through proprietary reactors and is exposed to electricity: this creates a sodium hydroxide solution (NaOH) and a hypochlorous acid solution (HOCL).
Impressive trial results
Michaels explained that PepsiCo had evaluated the technology across multiple locations, and the results showed the ability of so-called ‘self-generated solutions’ to effectively clean and sanitize.
“All trial locations demonstrated microbiological performance equal to or better than the microbiological performance when utilizing purchased detergents and sanitizers,” Michaels wrote.
“Benefits from using this technology include increased employee, reduction in chemical costs, reduction of overall water usage during CIP, reduction in energy consumption, reduction of plant chemical inventory, reduction in time and reduction in toxic waste water discharge.”
As an optimized process, ECA would replace existing purchased chemicals, Michaels wrote, with no “specific interval requirement” for their use.
She added that PepsiCo's Global Procurement department had evaluated potential ECA suppliers during the trial process. Although trials continue, Irish firm Trustwater International is as yet the only supplier approved, and is named as such in the letter.
Sole approved supplier
Speaking to BeverageDaily.com, Edmond O’Reilly, Trustwater CEO, declined to discuss his firm’s relationship with PepsiCo, but said his firm was on course to turn over around €6m ($7.5m) in 2012.
Trustwater had around 400 installations in cleaning and disinfection and water disinfection, he said: “We have around 50 installations in beverage plants, with some big name brands, let’s just say that.”
“What we’re doing in those plants is eliminating the entire bought-in chemical requirement for cleaning and disinfection and saving in cleaning times of at least 50%. The main application is CIP or COP, others include pungent-flavor changeover and external filler disinfection,” O’Reilly explained.
Payback time was often under six months because of the increased plant availability, he said, adding that Trustwater had now cut the pungent flavor changeover time for one major bottler from 90 minutes to 25.
O’Reilly explained his firm’s ECA technology in more detail. “You have four elements going in: H2O, water, NaCL (salt). Our technology produces two liquid solutions from these elements,” he said.
“Both of these can be recovered for reuse, while site water usage to rinse and purge systems is also cut dramatically, due to non-toxic chemical use.
“The disinfectant solution contains hypochlorous acid (HOCL) and other peroxygen species: these are extremely powerful disinfectants, while also being non-toxic and environmentally friendly.”
Soaring beverage demand
The ECA detergent was principally a hydroxide solution – similar to the caustics plants would normally buy in, O’Leary said, but in this case it was generated on site in a ‘metastable’ form.
“To explain that – our technology imparts a form of energy into both solutions, not dissimilar to imparting heat or thermal energy into other cleaners or disinfectants,” he said.
“But rather than a thermal energy, our technology imparts an electrochemical energy into the solutions, making them far more effective than traditional chemicals at ambient temperatures.”
O’Reilly said that the first patents relating to ECA technology emerged around 10 years ago, but it only really took off in 2009/10.
“We are the holder of those original patents and have patent protection. One or two other companies are trying to do something similar, but they’re not doing it as well,” he said.
“Acceptance of the technology is really taking off now in beverage and dairy – these are key focus areas for us,” O’Reilly added.
“Typically we see the most demand where there are chemical cost concerns or capacity constraints, because fast CIPs mean plant availability is greater.”