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Centrale del Latte di Brescia has doubled its aseptic production of UHT milk in PET bottles with Sidel aseptic Combi Predis.
Centrale del Latte di Brescia has doubled its aseptic production of UHT milk in PET bottles with Sidel aseptic Combi Predis.
Photo: 123

Italy-based Centrale del Latte di Brescia has doubled its aseptic production of UHT milk in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles by investing in Sidel's combined blow-fill-cap solution – the Sidel aseptic Combi Predis, a first in Italy.

The company markets its own brand and is also a co-packer for other producers and private labels. It was the first in Italy to produce UHT long-life milk (in the 1960s) and also to package it in PET bottles (in the early 2000s). The shift began with its fresh milk in 1L and 0.5L bottles.

"We strongly believe in the importance of refreshing the brand, to give a more dynamic and modern image to our milk range. Selecting the right package is central to this process: PET bottles offer us great freedom in package design to achieve brand differentiation and, importantly, they also meet strict food safety standards," explained Paolo Bonometti, Plant Director at Centrale del Latte di Brescia. "We have built on the success of this introduction of fresh milk in PET to promote our UHT milk in appealing PET bottles since 2004."

At the time, the dairy producer invested in a complete aseptic PET line equipped with standalone equipment. In just a few months, the company almost completely switched its UHT milk production from carton to PET bottles.

Due to increasing demand for UHT milk in PET bottles in Italy, Centrale del Latte di Brescia recently needed to enlarge its production capacity. "We finally initiated a new journey by investing in a line which includes an aseptic Combi equipped with dry preform decontamination from Sidel: the first one for UHT milk in PET in Italy," said Bonometti.

The successful implementation of the aseptic Combi Predis by major names in the industry prompted Centrale del Latte di Brescia to choose Sidel's machinery. One such dairy project in North America, following trials, saw the aseptic Combi Predis receive approval from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This made it the world's first aseptic PET filling equipment with dry preform sterilization validated for low acid manufacturing and commercial distribution in the US market.

Centrale del Latte di Brescia took advantage of the integrated blow-fill-cap solution to leverage the practical and marketing benefits offered by PET. "The squared shape of our bottle allows an optimal palletization pattern, with more containers per pallets," said Bonometti.

The unique design of the PET bottles also stand out from other products on the shelves. "Our innovative bottle breaks the visual codes of the containers that our consumers were accustomed to for UHT milk. We play with the shape and the large surface area that the bottle offers for decoration, 'dressing' our products with roll-fed or sleeve labels, completed with a tamper evident seal around the cap – a solution which also represents the guarantee of intact packaging for consumers, " he explained.

Moreover, the bottles feature various impactful and eye-catching colors, to easily identify the different milk categories.

The PET bottles and their branding are also a good marketing tool for the company when it promotes its PET packaging solution to other dairy brand producers and retailers. "We are preparing unique PET bottles with customized label designs, including colors and typefaces, to present PET as an alternative to carton packaging to the main Italian dairy players. The bottles speak for themselves. Their benefit as functional packaging and their impact are really powerful in terms of marketing positioning and consumer experience."

Product safety and integrity, with no quality issues caused by microorganism growth or alterations caused by light, oxygen and temperature, are of paramount importance for dairy products.

"PET packaging solutions really offer dairy products the possibility to retain their fresh taste, vitamin content, texture and color from production to storage, including shipment and distribution. The opaque barrier PET we use, combined with the dry preform decontamination process, offers great product safety. We do not need to use any aluminum lid as the tightness between injected bottle neck and cap is very reliable, and the consumers really appreciate this," commented Guillaume Rolland, Sensitive Products Category Director at Sidel.

Apart from quality aspects, it had to consider the restricted floor space available in the plant of Centrale del Latte di Brescia: a historic building located in the center of the city of Brescia. "An old building was destroyed and replaced by a new one with two levels: the basement for the raw material storage and the ground floor for the offices and aseptic production areas," explained Bonometti.

An industrial configuration similar to that of the first aseptic line based on a standalone equipment approach could not fit within the limited available floor space. Consequently, the company had to implement a much more compact configuration, which justified the decision to turn to an integrated blow-fill-cap solution.

"The low-output aseptic Sidel Combi Predis specifically accommodates the need for an ultra-reduced footprint, making it ideally suited to the space constraints we faced in our plant. It is also perfectly sized for our production needs of up to 16,000 bottles per hour, allowing us to double our production volume of UHT milk," said Bonometti.

The new line is used for a range of different milks, which includes a multitude of references under Centrale del Latte di Brescia’s own brand, along with those produced for private labels, in 330ml, 500ml and 1litre sizes.

In terms of the major references, by applying the same design, regardless of the brand and bottle format, almost no changeover is required: just the product itself and the labels. "Simple and fast changeovers, with limited manual intervention, are possible, along with reduced downtime for liquid changeovers, with only three hours required for cleaning and sterilization. The Sidel Rollquattro labeler offers great flexibility to change our wraparound labels, key in our bottle customization," commented Bonometti.

The line is also equipped with Sidel conveyors and a compact accumulation table to fit with the reduced footprint available. "We are satisfied with the overall performance and reliability of the bottling line, reaching an efficiency greater than 95%, with an average of 92%," he said.

Cost-saving was achieved with Sidel dry preform decontamination technology, which does not consume water and only minimal amounts of chemicals. The blower oven activates the sterilizing effect of the hydrogen peroxide vapor, without the need for additional heating of the preforms.

The same technology is employed for cap decontamination with Sidel's Capdis. "This process is really simple and ensures a high level of decontamination, with the content of the filled bottle protected from microorganisms," said Rolland.

By integrating preform decontamination, blowing and filling functions with cap decontamination in a single enclosure, the Sidel Combi Predis ensures an aseptically filled and capped PET bottle, without consuming water.

"We are really satisfied with the solution benefits in terms of food safety, top production quality and reliability, cost-effective and environmentally friendly production. Compared with PET lines equipped with a stand-alone blower and aseptic filler with wet bottle decontamination, it is also easier to operate and maintain," commented Bonometti.

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