The intersection of beverage processing technology and innovation

The global call to reduce CO2 emissions in production processes, including beverage production, has had a significant influence on technology innovations that use less energy and water. This is against a backdrop of an increasingly competitive landscape, growing environmental consciousness among consumers and increasing scarcity and rising cost of water, something of particular importance in water-scarce South Africa.

Tetra Pak responded to this demand from consumers and customers alike by devising an innovative solution for juice, nectar and still drinks production that combines existing technology in an entirely new configuration to drastically reduce energy, water consumption and costs. This ground-breaking solution was recognised by the International Fruit and Vegetable Juice Association and honoured with the “IFU 2019 Innovation Award” at the annual Juice Summit in Antwerp, Belgium.

To this end, Tetra Pak in 2020 introduced a new juice, nectar and still drinks (JNSD) production line that uniquely combines pasteurisation, filtration and UV light to treat beverages in two separate streams, which are aseptically blended together into the final beverage. ‘Water is treated separately with filtration and UV light, which uses much less energy. In the new JNSD line customers reduce energy consumption up to 67% and water consumption used for cleaning-in-place, sterilisation and product change-over is cut by up to 50%, compared to a normal process,’ says Hervé Saini, processing director at Tetra Pak Southern Africa.

Tetra Pak’s proven lines for nectars and still drinks offer several major advantages. Starting in the pre-mix area, it offers a choice of different mixers adapted to the customer’s specific product ingredients. It continues with a blending system that, together with its pasteuriser, secures the lowest possible product losses and ends with an aseptic tank from which the product can be safely distributed to the filler.

Such improvements are supplemented by design adjustments to the food manufacturing process to reduce food waste. Manufacture of UHT (ultra-long life) products are the company’s core business and a post-production means of reducing waste is increasing the shelf-life of food. ‘Product return contributes to CO2 emissions; therefore, food waste reduction is an integral part of our systems.’ He explains that shelf-life is governed, not by adding preservatives as it sometimes believed, but by the UV heating process and aseptic conditions of manufacture.

Hervé notes that innovations by Tetra Pak are aimed at assisting customers to achieve their own sustainability goals. Furthermore, they meet growing consumer demand for food quality, safety, and sustainability. Covid-19 has shifted consumer behaviours in several ways and juice consumption is no exception. For instance, an increase in demand has been evident in products, which improve people’s immune system, such as vitamin C in fresh juices.

Tetra Pak continues to see much potential for constant innovation. ‘We see new opportunities on the horizon, as our customers increasingly search for ways to lead a healthier lifestyle, and this trend has accelerated during the spread of Covid-19. The JNSD line meets innovation, efficiency and sustainability criteria and helps customers meet consumer demands while capturing growth opportunities.’