The drinks manufacturer and co-packer has just whipped the covers off a 40,000 bottle/hour Sidel wet aseptic line (pictured below) for low and high-acid products at its plant in Nakhon Pathom, 60km from Bangkok.
This is stage one of a €120m ($160m) plant build; the factory’s second phase with follow in mid-2014 and the project will be finished over the following five years.
Sidel said the installation is now the fastest aseptic PET line in Thailand – it is the first aseptic line sold by the French supplier in the country – and it can fill particulates up to 5mm x 5mm x 5mm.
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This is essential, because the line is currently configured to produce a nutritional drink that is high in dietary fiber – one sensitive product is a mixed dairy drink with grape juice and aloe vera pieces in a 280ml format.
"Wellness drinks will be the next trend in Thailand," a Sidel spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com.
"High speed is important in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO) providing the benefit of lower cost of production to gain more competitiveness," she added.
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“Being new to the beverage industry, the company’s decision to bottle such sensitive products was a bold move, as it necessitates having specialist knowledge to setup and maintain the most stringent food safety standards to protect the integrity of products being bottled,” Sidel said.
Sidel's spokeswoman said that tropical climates provided perfect conditions for micro-organisms to develop.
"Therefore, operating an aseptic filler in such conditions requires both reliability from the machine (as is the case in any application, whatever its location in the world) and good hygeine - crucial in any application, but particularly so in tropical conditions," she added.
General Beverage held roadshows in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia last year to market itself as a supplier of products including coffee, tea, milk and fruit juices – it has 20+ local and overseas brands in its portfolio.
The company is working to build its reputation as a supplier of high quality drinks – juice drinks, teas and sports drinks are forecast to grow 4%/year over the next four years in Southeast Asia.
More solid, fresher aloe vera pieces
The Sidel spokeswoman said that aseptic processing preserved the taste, smell and nutrient value of ingredients versus other ambient distribution technologies.
"For particles in aseptic applications, the characteristics of the particles can also be well maintained - e.g. aloe vera or nata de coco - which provides a more solid or fresh taste compared with particles produced through other filling technologies," she said.
Sidel said the market share of PET bottles in the region is also rising “as consumers increasingly recognize the material is more convenient and lighter than glass, and more hygienic than HDPE”.