ASEPTIC TECHNOLOGY 2013: exclusive online event

Aseptic filling with fruit pieces and pulp ‘excites’ Coca-Cola Hellenic


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Terry Rabson, regional engineering manager at Coca-Cola Hellenic, was speaking at's exclusive online event Aseptic Technology 2013 last Thursday
Terry Rabson, regional engineering manager at Coca-Cola Hellenic, was speaking at's exclusive online event Aseptic Technology 2013 last Thursday

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A top Coca-Cola Hellenic executive tells that the most exciting recent development in aseptic technology is the ability to fill non-alcoholic beverages aseptically with fruit pieces and pulp.

Terry Rabson, regional engineering manager at €7.045bn ($9.24bn) bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCH), was speaking during a roundtable for our exclusive online event, Aseptic Technology 2013, last Thursday.

Asked by US editor, Jenni Spinner, about developments in aseptic processing technology, Rabson replied: “I think the most exciting thing happening worldwide, particularly in the East, and it’s something that we’ve just gone into, is the ability to aseptic fill with fruit pulp and pieces.”

Describing the technology as “very, very new​”, Rabson said it allowed manufacturers to bring both juice and pieces of fruit and the pulp directly to the bottle at the filling station.

 “That’s where we are now. We have the very latest line in Romania that’s producing as we speak, the validation’s just been completed,”​ he told Spinner.

Main areas of change and growth

Rabson added that CCH had high hopes for the future, “although further development will depend on consumer demand. In China and the Far East such products are huge.”

 “The main areas of change and growth at the moment – because of some stagnation in Europe – are in new types of products such as juices with pulp, fruit bits,”​ he said.

“From Hellenic’s point of view, we’re already into these markets. Last year in Russia we went very rapidly with an upgrade of our system there. And we have the capability now to produce drinks with pulp,”​ Rabson added.

“This has been followed by the very latest technology from suppliers in the capability to fill in a double capacity where you bring pulp and juice at the same time into the filling machine itself. These are the latest technologies we’ve endorsed.”

(One example of a significant recent offering in this direction comes from GEA Procomac, which in 2012 launched its Aseptic Dual Filling System​ for bottling still beverages containing pulps, fibers, fruit pieces and cereals measuring up to 10x10x10mm, a first for cold-filling into PET.)

Spreading the aseptic gospel to consumers

Spinner also asked Rabson whether brands did enough to educate consumers on the ‘health and wellness’ benefits associated with aseptic technology: lighter PET packages versus hot fill, longer shelf life, higher nutrient content, better taste?

“I don’t think we deliver the message right, with the efforts we put into this technology, we have the room to better enlighten the consumer on what the positives are, and they are nearly all positives,”​ Rabson said.

“So from a bottler’s perspective, yes, when it comes to sales, we should exploit the technology more.”

Raymond Borque, president of RAY-PAK (now a consultant, former director of processing and packaging technology at Ocean Spray Cranberry in the US) agreed with Rabson, but said: “It is very difficult, in the little time available to advertise your products, to try to educate consumers as to the benefits of aseptic over other processes.

“Also, we all use other processes, and we want to be fair to these processes too.”

Rabson also said that traditional problems regarding lower line speeds (for aseptic versus hot fill) were now a thing of the past.

“From our perspective, we have a variation of speeds on some of our lines. Our original lines – more than 10 years old – were very low capacity, low speed, but in one of our lines we have a 48,000 bottle/hour capability,”​ he said.

“So we don’t experience problems in terms of speed. We can probably level it down to cost. To run a 10,000 line against a 48,000 line you’re looking at similar changeover, similar cleaning times, chemical use.”

Planning product mix ‘more precisely’

From an operational standpoint, Bourque added: “Management’s understanding of aseptic is critical. There is a bit of a loss of flexibility from the management’s point of view with aseptic, at least versus hot fill for fruit juices, juice drinks and isotonics.

“You must plan your product mix much more precisely, and avoid the requirements to shutdown, and CIP and re-sterilize. That curtails flexibility a little bit on the manufacturing floor, it must be understood.”

GEA Procomac says a modern aseptic bottling lines for sensitive beverages should comprise (1,2) Systems to sterilize containers and caps (3) A filling machine (4) Environmental contamination control systems (5) Process systems feeding the system with nitrogen, air, water.

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