Keeping Cool Under Pressure at Pack Expo

Tetra Pak Wedge Aseptic

With the fresh juice craze reaching a fever pitch in the U.S., product preservation technology was featured prominently at this year’s PACK EXPO International, held from September 23-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event showcased over 1,700 exhibitors and drew over 40,000 attendees searching for the latest in package innovations for a wide range of consumer packaged goods.

This year’s show offered an early look at packaging technologies that will influence the beverage industry in the coming years.

BevNET had the opportunity to visit with Franklin, Tenn.-based Avure Technologies, one of only two companies supplying high pressure processing (HPP) machines to the U.S. market. HPP machines are large pressure chambers which use high pressure instead of heat to inhibit bacteria growth in raw foods and beverages. Products are added to the chambers in batches and placed under massive pressure for about three minutes. The products emerge from the machine safe for consumption without having ever been “cooked.” The lack of heat in the process allows for the preservation of certain flavors in a food or beverage product which would normally be unable to withstand typical heat-based pasteurization. For example, a fresh squeezed orange juice would retain its characteristic flavor after HPP treatment.

Avure’s exhibit at Pack Expo featured its newest HPP system. Manufactured in Middleton, Ohio, the machine offers a 91 percent increase in processing throughput relative to its predecessor.  Avure marketing director, Tim Hunter, explained that the new machine achieves the increased output through the use of a larger basket, the container which holds the products while they are within the pressure chamber.

Tetra Pak Evero Aseptic

The new machine was originally introduced to the market in an effort to help toll-processing facilities increase capacity. In fact, in the past six months, Avure sold new machines to two toll-processing facilities: Louisville, Colo.-based Hope Fresh and Meriden, Conn.-based Stay Fresh.

Though not as new as HPP, aseptic packaging technology remains the ‘gold standard’ for providing beverages maximum shelf-life. Known best for its juice box cartons, Tetra Pak showed BevNET two new aseptic packages.

The ‘Tetra Wedge Aseptic’ will reach the U.S. market before the end of the year. And, if its history of use in Europe proves a fair predictor of how U.S. beverage companies will utilize the package, it’s likely that we’ll see the Tetra Wedge adopted by companies focusing on children’s beverages.

Tetra also unveiled its new liter-sized ‘Evero Aseptic.’ The package uses the traditional paper-based material for the lower portion of the container but also incorporates a rounded plastic top and a resealable closure. Despite its hybrid composition, the Evero can be recycled by separating the plastic top from the carton body. The package was launched in Europe in 2011 and has seen use primarily as a milk container.

Another aseptic package technology that will likely hit the U.S. market in 2014, the SurePouch, was on display at the Bosch booth. This upright pouch features a plastic cap closure which punctures the plastic container only upon opening.

Not all of the package innovations BevNET came across were limited to product preservation. The majority of the innovations at Pack Expo were technologies that increased shelf appeal or decreased the material and cost of the package.

Overwrapped cases

One technology that could have a big impact on the U.S. beverage market is case overwrapping. The dominant casing technology employed in Europe for many years, particularly with beer, overwrapping uses a shrink film to encase bottles or cans.

Overwrapping eliminates the need for the conventional cardboard tray currently used for wrapped cases. Suppliers claim that overwrapping lowers the cost to the manufacturer while shrinking the package’s overall carbon footprint.

Another interesting case technology is Graphic Packaging’s Cooler Pack. The Cooler Pack features watertight walls and a perforated strip along the top of the case. When unzipped and filled with ice, the case transforms itself into a ready-to-go cooler.