One aseptic technology leader says a consumer taste for natural foods and beverage, and longer shelf life, rank among factors driving sustained growth.
While aseptic currently holds a relatively modest share of the world’s overall packaging market, the sector is among the fastest growIng packaging segments. According to market research firm Freedonia Group, the segment has increased about 9% annually, and it is projected to hit $35.8bn by 2015.
Oystar USA is among the companies furnishing food firms, beverage makers, and other packaging firms with aseptic equipment. John Panaseny, Oystar USA president, spoke with FoodProductionDaily about some of the factors behind the growth, and technologies available.
FPD: Why is the popularity of aseptic packaging continuing to grow among food and beverage companies?
John Panaseny: There three key reasons why we are seeing increased popularity for aseptic packaging.
First, it ties in with a growing consumer trend for more natural based foods and beverages. Consumers do not want added chemicals in their products, which translates to a preference for fresh food over foods processed with preservatives. Fresh foods, of course, have a more limited shelf life and may also require refrigeration.
By utilizing aseptic processing and packaging technologies, food companies can provide foods with extended shelf lives without the need for preservatives, and that are shelf stable (no refrigeration required). Through hot-fill and retort processing and packaging (i.e. cans) can also claim these benefits, the heat used in these methods tends to have a greater negative effect on both taste and nutrition value; aseptic processing and packaging minimizes flavor and nutrient loss.
Secondly, larger multinational food companies are looking to expand their product sales to emerging markets.
These markets have similar desires for more natural food products, but do not typically have the same level of sophistication in their Cooling Chains. This means that they cannot as easily ensure that a product will stay cold through distribution and retail.
This fact supports shelf stable products, which can offer a potentially better tasting product in all climate conditions.
The final piece of the puzzle has been the improvement in the processing and packaging equipment for aseptic products. The basic technology has existed since the 1960s, but recent advancements have made it applicable to a broader array of food products.
What sorts of capabilities have customers been asking for in aseptic equipment?
Food companies want levels of automation, flexibility and speed that are, at least, comparable to their existing lines.
What markets and applications are Oystar machines best suited for?
We supply aseptic packaging equipment for plastic cups (either preformed or form-fill-seal), and flexible pouches. Common applications in the past have been pudding, sauces, baby food and dairy products.
However, applications going forward are much more diverse. Mashed potatoes, soups - basically any product in a can or jar is open for consideration.
The biggest limitation in the past has been the particle size of the food product, but this limitation is quickly being reduced, opening an ever larger span of possible products that can be considered.
You recently released the Oystar Flexline FL 8/8 CA cup filler, geared toward aseptic dairy applications; what sets this system apart from competitive machines?
The Hamba Flexline is designed to be a high-output, highly flexible machine; a servo-driven machine design helps achieve these goals. Product size and flavor changes are done very quickly.
Further, Oystar Hamba has reputation for robust designs that typically last well over 20 years in production with minimal downtime. The Flexline continues this tradition.
In addition to the mechanical and electrical design, our company has a tremendous amount of experience with aseptic filling. Our aseptic engineers are experienced at installing, commission and supporting aseptic systems, allowing for a shortened learning curve for new customers.
The concept of aseptic filling involves sterilizing the packaging materials and filling the product in a sterile zone; each of these steps must be validated and continuously monitored. Our experience here is something that sets us apart.