LANXESS - The cool side of the filling process

Rising energy prices and environmental concerns are putting pressure on beverage manufacturers to find alternatives to hot-fill processes. Ingo Broda, vice-president of the beverage technology business line at LANXESS, discusses how cold fill, in combination with Velcorin, requires less PET material and keeps product odour, colour and taste intact.

Could you briefly introduce LANXESS as a company?

Ingo Broda: LANXESS is a leading speciality chemicals company with sales of €8.3 billion in 2013 and roughly 17,300 employees in 31 countries. It is represented at 52 production sites worldwide.

The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and speciality chemicals. LANXESS is a member of the leading sustainability indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index World and FTSE4Good as well as the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.

LANXESS's material protection products business unit produces the dimethyl dicarbonate, Velcorin, at its German sites in Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.

What are the key issues surrounding existing hot-fill processes for beverages?

There is great demand for optimal product stabilisation, fresh taste and a natural appearance in the industry, as well as an increasing interest in providing valuable functional ingredients like antioxidants and vitamins.

Manufacturing processes are also significant. The light-layer PET bottles used are frequently incompatible with the hot bottling processes: the bottles become misshapen and the heat-treatment method can affect some of the properties of high-quality soft drinks, such as the vitamin content and the flavour.

There is also the issue of sustainability - one of the key challenges facing the world today. Hot filling has a negative impact in this area: it has high energy consumption and uses tons of PET for bottles.

Furthermore, modern beverages consist of many sensitive and functional ingredients, such as vitamins. Problems not only arise in water to which subtle flavours are added, but also in soft drinks containing fruit juice. Everyone knows what an apple tastes like, and anyone who is prepared to pay more for a particular product will not want to pay good money for flavours that come across as unnatural.

Is cold fill in combination with Velcorin a viable alternative to hot fill?

Yes. Velcorin is added during beverage production, thereby covering all possible gaps in the process that could allow germs to enter the product - even in meticulously clean environments. At low concentrations, Velcorin is still very effective against typical microorganisms such as yeast, bacteria and moulds. It penetrates the cell and deactivates enzymes, leading to the destruction of microorganisms.

Once added to the beverage, Velcorin rapidly breaks down into negligible amounts of methanol and CO2 - naturally occurring compounds in many beverages such as fruit and vegetable juices and wines.

Consequently, it has no effect on the taste, smell or colour of the beverage. It can be used with a wide range of different beverages, and is compatible not just with PET but with all forms of packaging.

Could you describe the main benefits of switching from hot fill to a Velcorin-based approach?

One key advantage is a more sustainable production process: it facilitates the use of lightweight PET bottles and requires less energy consumption. It also protects sensitive ingredients and the real fresh taste of products.

Existing hot-fill lines can easily be upgraded with LANXESS's Velcorin technology. Only minor modifications are required. The switch in production processes is a simple conversion and will be supported by technical advice from our experts.

Today, a high number of hot-fill lines are successfully producing with Velcorin cold-fill technology. We are receiving an increasing number of inquiries from the market.

What does the future hold for you?

We have plans to expand in South-East Asia; Asia is still the fastest-growing beverage market in the world. Many hot-fill lines are in place, while, at the same time, resources such as energy and PET are becoming scarce or expensive. Environmental issues will also be of growing importance to governments, industry and consumers. It is the perfect platform for our Velcorin technology.

Due to the strong demand, our major objective is to set up local service and logistics networks in very short period of time. They will take into account the individual political situations, cultures and economics of this huge marketplace.

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Unlike hot fill, cold fill does not affect the taste, smell or colour of a beverage.
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