This move helped Bickford’s enjoy great freedom in terms of packaging design. They can now benefit from the wide branding surface to apply both sleeve labels and pressure sensitive labels (PSL). Moreover, thanks to Sidel’s proven dry preform sterilisation technology, the Australian player is also leveraging a safe, easy to operate, cost-efficient and sustainable packaging solution. The line welcomes expanded manufacturing capabilities in terms of volume and type of beverages, while switching quickly from one product to another. In total, the new line now processes more than 20 different SKUs including still water, coffee with milk, coffee with almonds, four different flavoured waters and eight types of juices – all in either 250 ml, 500 ml or 1 L formats.
Outstanding bottle and decoration design capabilities
“At the start of the project,Bickford’s team visited three of our customers’ sites in Thailand, Japan and France and was able to experience the advantages offered by Sidel’s Aseptic Combi Predis first hand. On top of that, they could rely on us through every step of the journey, including the choice of raw material suppliers and the right designs for the preform and the bottle,” says Herve Herambert, Account Director Sales Aseptic South East Asia Pacific at Sidel. He continues, “They were particularly impressed by Sidel’s 40-year experience in aseptic PET applications as well as in packaging: the family-owned company appreciated the support offered to design and industrialise the containers, including the perfect application of the labels to the new bottle’s shapes.”
Throughout the project, Sidel’s packaging experts worked in close collaboration with Bickford’s marketing team to launch their products. “Looking at our water and CSD range filled through the Combi SF300, we wanted to achieve an iconic shape to help our brand stand out in a very crowded marketplace. Our new bottles needed to offer convenient handling to our consumers and be robust enough to hold their ergonomic shape and carbonation once opened,” explains Beverley Reeves, Senior Brand Manager at Bickford’s. Talking water, the Sidel packaging team started from scratch: new containers were designed for the 1 L Aqua Pura branded water, applicable both to sparkling and still water, with the latter one supported by the proven StarLITE™ base. To accomodate future needs, Sidel also developed an additional 600 ml design, perfectly applicable to a variety of recipes, including flavoured water.
A redesign was needed also around the family of drinks previously packaged via hot-fill technology. In this case, the number one priority was to optimise the packaging, while keeping the same premium brand attributes, and also lightweighting the bottle. For instance, by changing the production set-up from hot-fill packaging to aseptic PET bottling with dry preform sterilisation, the Australian player halved the weight of their 1 L juice bottle – down to 32 g – while enhancing its attractiveness and expanding its shelf life up to 8 months. The new bottles are designed with quite straight body panels with simplified ribbing at the sides to allow the application of either sleeve labels or PSL; the biggest format (1 L) engraved with the iconic Bickford’s brand name. “We were really impressed by Sidel’s packaging capabilities. To streamline our decision process, they provided many bottle design alternatives and great conceptual designs with current labels as well as new prototypes. Considering the productivity advantages we gained and the high consumer acceptance around our redesigned containers, we are planning to strengthen the cooperation with Sidel further and launch a 1 L format for sparkling products, for water as well as CSD,” concludes Reeves.
Extensive flexibility for greater product variety
Refreshed designs within a diversified, premium portfolio are answering the needs of a niche market, which is why Bickford’s is targeting small batch production; an approach perfectly supported by the Sidel low-speed aseptic line. To install the new set of equipment, Bickford’s reorganised the production set-up and raw material localisation: for instance, by removing two out of three hot-fill lines they had, they gained empty floor space to be dedicated to the new complete line. The challenge for Sidel’s team was to complete the installation without disrupting the production routines, while also securing the very high hygienic requirements needed in aseptic production.
The new versatile PET line, set-up at the Adelaide plant, includes Tetra Pak Processing Systems technologies, guaranteeing full product safety and maximising uptime starting from the process step. Additionally, the Aseptic Combi Predis is completed by the Capdis™ system for dry cap decontamination, while the CSD Combi features the compact and hygienic BlendFILL configuration, combining carbonator and filler in a single system for reduced consumption of CO2. Gebo OptiDry®, a fully washable, stainless steel drying system with a proven efficiency of over 99% is integrated. As part of the line, the customer opted also for Sidel’s proven Roll Adhesive labeller, ensuring great stability and precision in the process, plus a sleever intended to handle PSL.
Bickford’s hyper-flexible line manages both aseptic and regular PET packaging on two different Combis, thus dealing with products featuring two different bottle necks, namely 28 mm for CSD and 38 mm for the aseptically-bottled products. They chose to use one single End-of-Line (EOL) solution to optimise the TCO while leading to maximised uptime, as changeovers are very easy. This EOL includes a VersaWrap® wrap-around case packer and a PalAccess® palletiser. Both pieces of equipment are designed with multi-format versatility and fast and simple format changeovers in mind, therefore perfectly suiting Bickford’s needs.
The line is now running at 12,000 bottles per hour (bph) for the aseptically filled drinks and up to 18,000 bph for the CSD products, with a greater efficiency than the one committed on the purchasing agreement, thus contributing to a production capacity reaching approximately 60 million bottles per year.
Safe and cost-effective solution around the clock
“It is important to note that this fantastic opportunity to switch from one product to another is not compromising the sterility of our production, rather the opposite. The PET aseptic line in our factory runs ten hours per day and Sidel managed to keep the product in the filler under complete food safety conditions between the last shift of the day and the first one the day after, meaning for more than twelve hours,” highlights George Kotses, Operations Manager at Bickford’s.
“By shifting from hot-fill to aseptic PET applications, we are benefitting from an optimised TCO. Namely, the Combi Predis offers a very competitive cost-efficiency ratio and a great environmental footprint because it does not consume any water and uses only very few chemicals. The solution allowed us to drastically reduce the bottle’s weight,” he continues. Lastly, the reduced need for cleaning in place (CIP) lowers maintenance costs.
Bickford’s first sellable product from the new line was introduced to the market in the summer of 2019. As a final point in this successful journey, the treasured brand celebrated the opening ceremony for the line commissioning in September in the presence of Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall.