Varun Beverages Ltd, which belongs to the RJ Corp group, one of the most important franchises of PepsiCo Inc. globally, it has installed a Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis at the plant it recently inaugurated in Punjab, India. This crucial project aims to expand the PET bottling capacity and provide flexibility for the manufacture of the Cream Bell white milk brand, in addition to Pepsi’s Tropicana juice range. By selecting the new preform dry sterilization technology, RJ Corp succeeds in marketing its liquid dairy products (PLL) in India for the first time.
Since the beginning of the nineties, the Indian company RJ Corp has become an international powerhouse with thriving businesses in the beverage, fast food restaurants, retail, ice cream, dairy, healthcare and education sectors. Through its operating company, Varun Beverages Ltd., the group is one of PepsiCo’s most important bottling partners in the world, and currently has 36 plants in the Indian subcontinent for the production of soft drinks, water and hot-fill juices, in addition to PLL.
The Aseptic Combi Predis also has a similar sterilization for the lids.
As more and more Indian customers are looking for drinks with high nutritional levels, the market is permanently moving to drinks known as better-for-you (that is, those that bring greater benefits to those who drink them). To maintain competitiveness in light of this trend, RJ Corp decided to diversify its portfolio and give a greater boost to its 100% natural juices with pulp and its ultra-high temperature (UHT) packaged PLLs and, in this way, increase the flexibility of production to change categories easily. “Working flexibly with both juices and dairy products on the same PET packaging line was essential for us, and the only way to achieve this was to produce on an aseptic line,” says R.J.S. Bagga, technical and operational director of RJ Corp.
“It was essential to have a high level of food safety and hygiene standards to meet Pepsi’s demanding quality protocols, as well as to obtain internal and external validations.” In order to face these challenges, RJ Corp decided to turn to Sidel’s Aseptic Combi Predis, which includes the dry sterilization of preforms. They were convinced that this is a very safe and easy-to-operate solution during a visit to a French co-packager that has been using this technology and relying on it to handle both juices and milk for more than 10 years. This system, approved in 2017 by the FDA for the production of beverages with a low acidity level, allows the manufacturer to easily and safely switch between four flavors of UHT milk (UHT white milk, coffee, chocolate and mango) and various juice recipes (orange delight and 100% orange juice with pulp, fruit delight and 100% fruit juice, guava, apple delight and 100% apple juice and lychee delight) in the same line. This represents a fundamental turning point for companies in India, which, previously, made juices in PET bottles with the hot filling process and milk in cardboard boxes.
To maintain competitiveness in light of this trend, RJ Corp decided to diversify its portfolio and give a greater boost to its 100% natural juices with pulp.
The investment in Sidel’s Aseptic Combi Predis marks two important achievements for RJ Corp in India: not only is it the first company to use aseptic bottling in PET, but it is also its first experience with dry sterilization of preforms. By using hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) injection before the oven, Sidel’s patented Predis technology does not consume water and can significantly reduce the use of chemical agents. This is a lighthouse project for PepsiCo Inc. worldwide in terms of processing and bottling of its products with a high level of acidity: Tropicana juices. The Aseptic Combi Predis also has a similar sterilization for the lids, Capdis, since it was very important to optimize the hygiene process and the handling of the lids themselves to avoid deformation and ensure the tightness between the neck and the lid.
“RJ Corp chose Sidel because of our expertise in PET and aseptic technologies. This new line allows up to 200 hours of continuous production without stopping for cleaning, which maintains the stability of its operation without compromising the quality of the product. In addition, the operation of the equipment is simple and operators find its functions intuitive and easily accessible,” says Rohit Sawhney, Sales Director at Sidel India.
In addition to the Aseptic Combi Predis, the complete line of RJ Corp in Punjab is equipped with a very competitive and flexible end of line, which has the VersaFilm Access weldless baler, with the best combination of production quality, performance and price at a medium speed. It also includes the PalKombi layer transfer palletizer, automatic and safe, which works with a low-level pallet feed, which gives it greater ease of access and control. To understand its line operations and maximize overall equipment efficiency, RJ Corp also invested in Sidel’s Efficiency Improvement Tool (EIT). This modular computer program, which adapts to changing needs, provides the most significant performance indicators, reports and analyses based on live and historical data, which make it possible to better understand the line flow, discover sources of loss of efficiency and achieve in-depth performance evaluation. It also monitors quality, losses, consumption, accumulation and traceability and interacts with inspection and business devices.
To make the most of this line, a specific training was carried out in order to allow RJ Corp technicians to correctly understand aseptic PET packaging, including hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) and, in this way, avoid any risk of contamination or detect its root causes efficiently, in case this happens. Since its implementation and validation, the line has been successfully operating at a speed of up to 36,000 bottles per hour. In general, it expands production capacities in terms of volume and also to a larger number of inventory reference units or SKUs.
In addition to the Aseptic Combi Predis, the entire line of RJ Corp in Punjab is equipped with a very competitive and flexible end of line.
In India, traditionally, milk is packaged in pouches, glass bottles or cardboard boxes. By choosing Sidel’s aseptic PET packaging technology, RJ Corp expanded the packaging options for its PLLs. The PET bottle guarantees a high standard of food quality and exceptional consumer experiences; PET is also a cost-effective and sustainable material. During the implementation of the packaging line, Sidel also shared his experience in PET packaging and helped to design the new bottle, which allows the use of the same shapes and lids for both UHT Cream Bell milk and Tropicana juices. The cap size for all bottle formats is 33 mm, which is a usual width for PLLs, but quite rare for juices. Therefore, Sidel’s packaging experts developed and designed an emblematic bottle shape in three sizes: 200 ml, 500 ml and 1 l.
All shapes and all sizes of bottles received an internal certification. Finite element analyses and validations were carried out before starting industrial production to ensure the strength and performance of the bottles throughout the supply chain. Sidel also designed specific preforms to give the bottle an optimized weight that supports the dry sterilization technology of preforms and avoids thermal stresses on the bottle. The new packaging, produced in white monolayer barrier PET, ensures a shelf life of up to nine months for UHT milk. In addition, all transparent bottles of Tropicana juice passed PepsiCo’s rigorous validation protocols.
Based on the good experience and satisfaction with the installation of Sidel’s complete aseptic packaging solution in Punjab, Varun Beverages Ltd. he chose Sidel again to implement exactly the same scope of supply at a different plant, located in the central-eastern region of India.