Changing consumer demands and COVID-19 provide new challenges for food and beverage manufacturers. Baris Altay from SIG Combibloc explains why speed and flexibility are more imperative than ever. This article first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Food and Drink Business.
COVID-19 is increasing the demand for healthy, sustainable products across a range of price points, while accelerating a move towards a new normal. With that, the food and beverage industry is facing a period of unprecedented challenges. What is needed are agile systems and filling technology to help address every new demand – quickly and easily without compromising on either high speed or high flexibility.
This is mirrored when looking at recent consumer sentiments. GlobalData’s Q1 2021 global consumer survey found considerations around health (health & wellness), time and money (easy & affordable), and familiarity and trust (comfort & uncertainty) rank as the most important factors, reflecting the complex needs and concerns that characterise modern consumer choices.
Healthier, resilient, more adaptable
One outcome of COVID-19 is that consumers are more conscious of health, hygiene, and immunity. They’re looking for functional, nutrient-rich beverages with proven health benefits. And producers are under pressure to react quickly to the changing consumer habits.
Meeting these demands with flexible options helps manufacturers to retain and grow their market share. Whether it be downsizing to meet on-the go consumption patterns and affordability or upsizing to fulfill rise of in-home consumption, flexibility and agility become key in capturing and retaining consumer segments.
Traditional wisdom dictates that when flexibility in assets goes up, speed and efficiency will go down and vice versa. The key is to ensure both aspects can increase.
Flexibility with efficiency means having the right production and filling technology in place. The manufacturer’s dream is the fastest possible line speeds and change-over times for formats, volumes, and designs, together with filling machines that can handle multiple product variants.
SIG Combibloc Australia & New Zealand general manager Adam Lipscomb says this is what motivates the SIG team.
“We offer high flexibility and high speed, which allows companies to quickly react to changing consumer demands and meet the growing health trends,” Lipscomb says.
With SIG’s high speed flexible filling systems, customers can quickly react to changing consumer demands and meet the growing health trends that are shaping the market. This is made possible due to SIG’s unique sleeve technology.
Unlike other systems in the market, SIG carton packs are delivered as flat-packed sleeves with the long side already sealed. Each sleeve is individually shaped, sterilised and filled at our customer’s premises using SIG’s aseptic filling machines.
After filling, the carton pack is sealed above the filling level and not through the product. This prevents pieces of food or fibres from getting trapped in the sealed seam and if required, it enables customers to value add to their products by aseptically adding food pieces.
Importantly, the SIG system assures the aseptic safety of the final product.
Across a variety of formats, SIG’s ultra-modern aseptic filling machines achieve an output of up to 12,000 packs per hour for the 500ml-1L range. And for small-size cartons, SIG has developed high-speed filling machines which are capable of filling 24,000 packs per hour with or without a re-closable cap.
All SIG filling machines come with the lowest waste rate in their industry – at below 0.5 per cent – and have the industry’s highest level of flexibility. Ultimately, this unrivalled speed, efficiency and flexibility can have a direct effect on the customer’s bottom line.
With SIG’s technology, it’s quick and easy to switch between different formats, volumes, designs and products. For instance, with the CFA 812 filling machine, customers can fill combibloc, combifit and combistyle family-size carton packs all having the same base dimensions, filling up to 12,000 packs per hour for 500ml, 750ml and 1L. This means customers can quickly make a product more or less premium in appearance.
Scaling up sustainability
Another impact of COVID-19 is a greater commitment from consumers to purchase from responsible companies.
If producers want to offer more sustainable and responsible product packaging, and the system behind it, the aseptic carton package is a good place to start. Packaging is the key touch point for consumers and influences the entire brand experience.
Taking this one step further, SIG offers a range of solutions that put the environment front and centre. SIG global marketing manager Sustainability Sina Maria Gerlach says the company is recognised internationally as a leader in sustainability.
“We were the first to have all packaging 100 per cent FSC-certified, meaning all paperboard comes from responsibly managed forests and other controlled sources. SIG was also first to introduce paper straws for beverage cartons.
“We were also the first to offer aseptic carton packs using aluminium foil certified to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative standard. And, with Ecoplus, Signature 100 and Heat&Go packaging structures, SIG was the first in the aseptic carton industry to eliminate the layer of aluminium foil,” Gerlach says.
All these solutions are scalable and designed to help customers gradually develop more streamlined processes and responsible products in their sustainability journey.
The manufacturer’s dream is the fastest possible line speeds and change-over times for formats, volumes, and designs.
In Australia, SIG is collaborating with its competitor Tetra Pak on an initiative with saveBOARD, Freightways and Closed Loop on the first full recycling solution for beverage cartons in the country.
The project is establishing a $5 million facility to transform packaging waste into high performance building material.
As a leading systems and solutions provider for aseptic carton packaging, at SIG we work in partnership with our customers to bring food and beverage products to consumers around the world in a safe, sustainable, and affordable way.
Our unique technology and outstanding innovation capacity enable us to address the ever-changing needs of consumers. Sustainability is integral to our business. Whether you’re selling drinks, foods or both, SIG Combibloc’s impeccable hygiene credentials and all-important convenience will make your products stand out from the crowd.
Baris Altay is the marketing and business development manager for SIG Combibloc Australia & New Zealand. He joined SIG in 2016 and has worked in global business development and marketing roles in Linnich, Germany before assuming his current position in Australia in 2019.