The question was explored by industry experts during the Beverage and Dairy Treatment online event this week.
Refresco Gerber is a large European bottler of soft drinks and fruit juices, for retailers and branded customers. Marcel Janssen, group manufacturing director, said it’s important the company keeps up to date with new developments – but the demands of retailers and customers and brands have to be considered.
“We are getting in more and more purchase requests from customers for healthy products – like vitamin waters, or drinks and beverages with more juices, natural ingredients, or dairy ingredients, and also preservative free,” said Janssen.
“We look at all kind of technologies and aware of all the possibilities but in the end we need a launching customer for a new investment.”
Richard Walton, R&D manager at Japanese dairy giant Meiji Co, said the company strives to build relationships with its processing suppliers.
“The big thing that I think is different from a Japanese company and some companies in other countries is that we try to build a relationship based on trust with our partners and that takes a long time,” he said. “Once we develop a relationship all parties see a benefit and it goes well.”
‘We pinpoint needs which people didn’t realise they had!”
“We try to be as proactive as possible, we try to anticipate needs or better pinpoint needs which people didn’t realise they had,” said Walton.
He gives Meiji’s Delicious Milk (Oishii Gyunyu) as an example. The product was created a decade ago through processing technology innovation – and is still going strong as a major brand in Japan.
“That was not something people were calling for, but we did research and saw that in Japan there were issues with not all people liking the taste of milk as it was processed," said Walton. "So if we could have as natural a taste milk as possible, that would make people more likely to consume milk.
“I’m on the R&D side: the major innovation there [was] removing the oxygen from milk before it’s pasteurized. That eliminates oxidized products which cause off tastes in the milk.
“That sounds [like it’s] not too difficult, but it actually is quite difficult. Meiji was the first company to be able to do that, in the world.
“For a number of reasons [the milk] ended up significantly better tasting… that’s been on the market for 10 years now and been the best-selling milk brand all of those years.”
For Walton, added value is the key to success – whether it’s in terms of processing technology or any aspect of a product.
“The competition in Japan is very, very tough, so it’s very difficult to make a profit. So whenever you can add value that’s very important for food companies, and especially dairy companies," he said.
“Even if we have a success in adding value to one of our products, the pressure is always… what’s next? How are you going to provide added value to the customer next? Up to this point we’ve been fairly up to the challenge, but it’s always something that’s hard to see into the future.”
For Janssen, simple but important factors like reduced downtime and good performance on processing lines are crucial.
“We need very high flexibility on our lines,” he said.
“What we in general want is we want to buy performance. We want low operating cost, low ownership cost, energy efficient lines, quick changeovers, and high reliability.
Every day we are focused on our line performance, this is difficult to manage if you see the increase in complexity. For cost price leadership we need very good performance of our lines.”
Click here to hear Janssen and Walton share their thoughts with Ben Bouckley (editor, BeverageDaily.com) and Mark Astley (editor, DairyReporter.com) on the Beverage & Dairy Treatment 2015 platform, where you can consume all the content for free.
In the other sessions, Zenith talks about attractive opportunities for beverage and liquid dairy categories; Coldpress talks High Pressure Processing; and LiDestri explains why it's invested in aseptic filling lines.