Flexible aseptic solution for the launch of new beverages has also delivered marketing gains

Nongfu Spring in China turned to Sidel to supply a flexible and safe aseptic solution to process new high/low acid and still/carbonated products in PET. The company also wanted to use impactful bottle designs for the launch of its new range.

Sidel therefore engineered and installed a complete aseptic packaging line, integrating the versatile aseptic combi Predis. The line helped the leading Chinese beverage player launch a breakthrough product in the domestic market: sparkling Ready-to-Drink (RTD) products, aseptically bottled in PET.

Nongfu also bottles natural drinking water, vegetable and fruit juices, functional beverages, teas and other soft drinks including plant protein yogurt, premium water for elderly people and vitamin water. Its strong focus on innovation and premium brand positioning are contributing to a steady customer base increase, even within beverage categories.

The popularity of Nongfu Spring’s RTD tea and coffee products reflects a large, overarching trend across Chinese consumers for ‘better-for-you’ products that either exclude sugar or include functional ingredients. Through NPD, Nongfu Spring is the first in China introducing sparkling tea, juice and coffee in aseptically packaged PET to serve these growing markets.

Nongfu Spring offers high-end, unique product propositions from bottle design to drink quality and recipe formulation to Chinese consumers and aims to enrich the product portfolio on an annual basis. And Sidel is part of this development.

The two companies have worked together for ten years, so when Nongfu was looking for a highly flexible solution to handle both still and carbonated beverages, as well as low- and high-acid products on the same line, it turned to Sidel.  It also didn’t want to compromise on safety, simplicity, sustainability and, especially, versatility.

The leading Chinese player was already familiar with aseptic bottle decontamination technology in a standalone configuration. And it has also validated the Sidel aseptic dry preform sterilisation solution in the past few years. This is efficiently supporting Nongfu Spring in the expansion of its portfolio, while ensuring reliability and product integrity. For further flexibility, the dry preform sterilisation technology solves the challenges presented by different bottle shapes, as the sterilisation takes place at the preform stage.

Additionally, Nongfu Spring decided to equip the machine with Sidel’s patented active base mould system, the Base Over Stroke System (BOSS) to differentiate some of its bottles and expand its marketing opportunities. In fact, the technology can be selected depending on the container’s shape.

BOSS is a piston activated system in the blowing phase that strokes the base, thus raising and lowering it during the bottle-forming process, independently from the opening and closing of the two half-shells of the mould.

Once the line was installed, food technologists handled the microbiological validation of both high- and low-acid products, which successfully achieved zero contaminated bottles in 30,000 units on the first attempt, as per the protocol specifications. To ensure this success, Sidel’s project managers worked closely with Nongfu Spring’s operators.

Today, the new aseptic complete PET line at Nongfu Spring’s plant in Xin’anjiang (Eastern China) is running at 36,000 bottles per hour (bph). Aside from the versatile aseptic combi Predis, the line was also equipped with Capdis, the dry cap sterilisation technology from Sidel.

The line also includes Tetra Pak Processing Systems technologies, an easy-to-handle Sidel RollQUATTRO roll-fed labeller – for wraparound labels – and Roll Adhesive labeller and a cooler with optimised water consumption. The end of line solution integrates a wrap-around case packer and the modular PalKombi palletiser for medium to high speeds.

Thanks to the success of this first line, Nongfu Spring has invested in two additional Versatile Aseptic Combi Predis systems which have been installed in the company’s factories in Hubei and Zhejiang, respectively. Both equipped with BOSS and running even faster at up to 49,500 bph, those pieces of equipment have already been fully validated.

Last autumn, Nongfu Spring acquired another Versatile Aseptic Combi Predis Combi from Sidel with speeds up to 54,000 bph.

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