Hana Water, Saudi Arabia's leader in bottled water, is making a bold move to juice and trusted Sidel to develop the perfect technological fit for this sensitive transition

Although long considered the water specialist in Saudi Arabia, Hana Water recognised the rapidly expanding demands in the beverage market for juice products. It decided it was time to get in on the action. Because this will now require packaging more-sensitive products, it needed to be certain of applying the most-adapted technology and service solutions possible.


Hana Water originally had a preference for hot-fill technology since this is the most traditional approach and largely considered the easiest to implement. But it ended up looking at the bigger long-term picture and worked with Sidel to weigh up all its options. The group was no stranger to Sidel. For years, Hana Water has benefited from complete line solutions by Sidel, and it currently uses Sidel blow-moulding technology on as many as eight of its lines. It ultimately realised that the best fit for it would be aseptic technology and opted for an aseptic PET line with Combi Predis FMa from Sidel.


A refreshing market opportunity


Just how big is the juice market in Saudi Arabia? According to Ahmed H. AL Theyab, Managing Director of Hana Water, consumers will drink 1.14 billion litres of juice this year alone. That's a huge opportunity for local drink manufacturers. "Currently, close to 70% of the GCC (Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf) market is covered by 65 Saudi-based bottling factories, which distribute up to 6.5 billion litres per year," AL Theyab explains.


When embarking on such a major endeavour, it certainly doesn't hurt to be a respected name in the region. "After more than thirty years as a leader in water, we had acquired a great deal of expertise, an excellent reputation, strong links with our customers and the financial force necessary to enter the beverage business," AL Theyab continues. "We see this transition to juice as a multi-phase approach." The first phase will be fruit drinks and ice tea, followed by a gradual move to nectars, then flavoured milk, smoothies and finally, 100% fruit juices with a core concept of zero preservatives. All of its recipes will comply with the highest standards and food regulations, which have become increasingly strict in Saudi Arabia.


Important decisions to make


The biggest challenge of all was to decide what kind of production line was most adapted to the company's needs and ambitions. Hana Water trusted Sidel to help it to find the best answer. Its decision to choose the aseptic Sidel PET line with Combi Predis FMa was driven by multiple factors. For starters, Hana Water was interested in the environmental benefits of applying dry-decontamination technology to its processes. This helps to reinforce its position as a truly responsible and innovative company: the Predis system uses no water and very few chemicals, reduces energy consumption, minimises floor space and helps to reduce maintenance costs.


It will also open up the possibility of deploying innovative bottle designs as Predis offers full freedom of bottle shape: a good opportunity for Hana Water. It wants to position its new product in the Premium range, so it's going to make sure it arrives on the market with the perfect image. This will include an attractive bottle and a full-sleeve label, which is ideal for marketing. Sidel worked with Hana Water to establish its primary orientations regarding bottle capacity. The choice was made to introduce 250 ml and 1 L bottles. Further down the road, it may eventually expand to a 300 ml format as well. First-hand proof offered an added layer of confidence. Hana Water had the opportunity to visit other Sidel clients in France, Poland and Germany who are currently using aseptic technology. These up-close experiences helped to reassure Hana Water that aseptic technology was truly the right way to go.


Lightweighting and long shelf life


Lightweighted bottles compared with traditional hot-filled juice bottles were also a key factor. Water was the first food-liquid segment to apply bottle-lightweighting technology and Sidel had provided its lightweighting know-how to Hana Water in the past for water bottling. So it welcomed the possibility of achieving similar success this time around.


Shelf-life was another critical issue. Hana Water wanted to be able to produce longer-life products with, eventually, no preservatives because government regulations have become strict regarding their use. It knew that achieving these goals would mean embracing aseptic technology over hot-fill. "Conventional hot-fill systems can have a bad effect on package quality due to deformation," says Ahmed H. AL Theyab. "But if we can offer a product in an attractive, elegantly designed bottle with a shelf life of nine months, and with the added value of zero preservatives, then this is something customers will be attracted to."


Building everything from scratch


Hana Water had its work cut out. As it was totally new to the juice world, it had to develop everything completely from scratch. This even meant building an entirely new production facility specifically for this new aseptic line. The facility is designed to host seven lines in total, including three aseptic lines, three box lines and a can line.


Throughout this construction phase, Sidel worked closely with Hana Water to choose the best filling technologies and the best consumables related to bottles and caps, and showed it how to ensure optimal sterilisation of both the product and container. Additionally, Sidel's experts were helpful in the various engineering aspects of the production area. For instance, they provided advice on the general environment conditions, such as proper lighting, air treatment to ensure quality filtration, and temperature control to prevent critical areas from getting too hot. Sidel also made recommendations regarding ground quality, such as what angles were necessary for the proper flow of liquids. And it instructed on what types of treatments to apply to chemical products for recycling as well as how to best store raw materials. As this was a multi-partner mission, Sidel coordinated and cooperated seamlessly with other suppliers on the line, including Tetra Pak for process control and piping. "With such a huge transition, having the combined expertise of Sidel and Tetra Pak was very valuable, especially on issues like closure and bottle neck finish, material distribution, oxidation prevention and overall output efficiency," explains Ahmed H. AL Theyab. "Now we will achieve optimal protection for our preservative-free juice products, and up to nine months of shelf-life in local environment conditions."


And to guide Hana Water smoothly from planning to deployment, Sidel will be providing extensive on-site training sessions for technicians and operators. Hana Water ordered the first aseptic line in mid-2010. The equipment was delivered by October 2011, and production is expected to begin during the first half of 2012, as soon as construction of the facilities is finished.