It was 35 years ago that Sidel produced its first SBO commercial solution for producing PET bottles for the beverage industry, since then the company has been supplying innovative and often pioneering PET liquid packaging solutions. To meet growing and fast-changing consumer demands, Sidel has been driving industry innovations through its extensive PET packaging and engineering expertise, supporting the growth in the use of PET as it continues to be recognised as the optimal solution for liquid packaging.
It was back in 1980 that Sidel, the leading global provider of PET solutions for liquid packaging, introduced the world's first SBO commercial production solution to package beverages in PET - the SBO blower for carbonated soft drinks (CSD). The company has since driven many of the performance improvements in PET bottling technology that cover all beverage categories, achieving huge advances in the productivity of complete lines. In 2014 a Sidel Matrix™ line produced 134,000 bottles per hour (bph) on the world's fastest production line for water; almost 40 times faster than the SBO blower of 1980 which offered 3,600 bph. Sidel has introduced numerous developments in filling machines, leading to substantial improvements in filling accuracy and waste reduction. Labelling technology has also seen impressive advances, highlighted by a recent project which saw two existing labellers replaced by a single Sidel Matrix Rollfed labeller and still achieve a 16% increase in capacity.
Nicholas Bloch, Executive Vice President for Group Communications at Sidel, explains the key values that underpin these developments - "Through all of these advances in equipment, the underlying objectives remain: lowering total cost of ownership through production flexibility, efficiency, product integrity and reduction in consumption of energy and raw materials."
Innovative design always a focus
Things have developed rapidly from that important 1980 starting point in PET packaging history, although the importance of innovative bottle design has remained. Sidel has been, and continues to be, instrumental in some of the most significant PET bottle designs in liquid packaging. Sidel has always focused on innovative packaging design, recognising market trends to create original, eye-catching shapes that help beverage producers to differentiate their products in what is a highly competitive and fast-paced market.
Sidel's commitment to packaging design also includes driving initiatives in lightweighting which has, for example, seen the weight of a 0.5 litre PET bottle for still water reduce by over 70% between 1985 and 2014. Sidel's RightWeight™ initiative has achieved a weight of just 7.95 grams for a 0.5 litre PET water bottle, while still maintaining excellent top load performance.
The growth of PET
During those 35 years PET has grown to become the material of choice for liquid packaging, with consumer demand for a lightweight and convenient material to suit the trend towards a more active, on-the-go lifestyle stimulating the growth of PET as an alternative to glass. The use of PET is growing in many different markets, from beverages and food, to home and personal care, with PET as a packaging material for bottles forecast to grow by 5% (compound annual growth rate) from 2014-2018 compared to the 2% growth forecast for glass. PET is a strong, lightweight and hygienic barrier that requires fewer resources to produce and transport, keeping beverages fresh, safe and full of flavour. In an era in which sustainable production is one of the most significant challenges, the fact that PET is 100% recyclable, is safe to handle and can virtually eliminate packaging waste is an increasingly important factor in its selection.
Milestone Sidel PET developments
Since the introduction of the first PET bottle, Sidel has been behind numerous developments in technology in the last 35 years, with the following among the most notable:
- 1980: Sidel introduced the world's first SBO commercial production solution to package beverages in PET, with the SBO blower for carbonated soft drinks
- 1984: Sidel introduces its preferential heating process which enables the production of complex shapes and 'flat' PET bottles for home and personal care products; the world's fastest beverage production line achieves 15,000 bph with an SBO 24
- 1985: Sidel developed the first-ever PET bottle for still water
- 1986: Sidel invents heat-resistant (HR) technology for the packaging of juices, isotonics and teas for the first time in hot-fill and pasteurisable bottles
- 1997: Sidel introduces the world's first integrated blow-fill-cap solution, the Sidel Combi; the Rollquattro is introduced, an advanced high speed labelling machine for PET containers, with output rates of up to 60,000 bph
- 2002: Sidel produces the first PET bottle for milk on a Sidel aseptic Combi
- 2006: Sidel launches the Predis™ dry preform decontamination system
- 2007: Sidel launches Capdis™, a dry decontamination system for caps
- 2013: Sidel introduces Sidel Matrix™, a revolutionary modular liquid packaging system comprising blowers, fillers, Combis and labellers; and the RightWeight™ concept bottle for still water which is 70% lighter than 30 years ago
- 2015: Sidel launches the Sidel Matrix blower eHR with electrical mould heating rather than the traditional oil mould heating to produce hot fillable PET bottles of consistently high quality
Into the future
Technology will undoubtedly continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of consumers. There is the trend for healthier lifestyles, plus the move towards increased urbanisation and the resulting need of packaging for an on-the-go lifestyle. There are also the challenges presented by the planet's limited resources, with projections indicating that demand for beverages will double by 2030. PET is well placed to meet these challenges - a sustainable packaging material which can unlock value at every step of the process, from reducing the use of raw materials to post-consumer recycling.
Recycled PET (R-PET) is being used to produce new bottles, along with a wide range of other products, and research is ongoing into non-fossil-based resins - the so called Bio-PETs, to build on the advances that have already been made. Through a holistic approach to PET packaging design, supply chains can be turned into value chains. This demonstrates how far the material has come since the introduction of the first commercial solution for producing PET bottles was introduced in 1980 and how it will continue to make an invaluable contribution to sustainable beverage packaging solutions in the future. Sidel will play a fundamental role in that future as a business dedicated exclusively to PET, constantly innovating to ensure it evolves for the benefit of consumers, the industry and the planet.