Filling you in

Dual-lane Evolution Series canning models are now available to European beverage makers. Image: WildGoose Filling

As the demand for canned beverages grows, equipment manufacturers are expanding their offerings and global footprint for filling and canning solutions.

Craft beer, as previously reported in CanTech International, is an area which has seen major growth over the past few decades, spreading in popularity across the US and Europe.

Beverage companies who may have originally filled bottled products now want to show their versatility and promote more sustainable practices by moving into the beverage can market, which in 2022 was valued at $39,207.7 million globally, according to Grand View Research.

With market leaders such as Sidel and KHS offering filling capabilities of up to 130,000 and 135,000 cans per hour respectively, competition is sharp as major global brands invest in expansion projects.

One such investment was the recently announced £13 million from leading soft drinks business, Britvic, to install a fifth canning line at its Rugby, Warwickshire factory. This makes up part of around £40 million worth of investment into the factory over the past two years and takes the site into the top five largest soft drinks manufacturing sites in Europe.

Britvic’s new set-up will see capacity increase by 14 per cent, producing 80,000 recyclable 330ml cans per hour of some of the UK’s most well-known brands, including Tango and Pepsi Max.

In the US, Absolut vodka owner, Pernod Ricard, has invested $22 million in the install of its first ready-to-drink (RTD) canning line at the company’s site in Arkansas. The plant currently produces several Pernod Ricard spirits, including coffee liqueur Kahlua and Seagram’s Gin, and, with the new line, the company says it will be able to produce more RTDs for its portfolio, including Jameson Irish whiskey, Absolut vodka, Malibu liqueur and TX Whiskey.

The Kuwaiti PepsiCo licensee, United Beverage Company K.S.C.C (Unibev), has also recently opted to replace two of its existing smaller canning lines with a single high-speed canning line from Krones. The German packaging and filling equipment manufacturer is assisting Unibev in filling a variety of CSDs from PepsiCo’s product range in 150-, 250- and 330ml cans.

“For us, it was a matter of bringing our operations up-to-date and increasing our filling capacity to meet increased market demand,” explained Joe Kilian, production manager for Unibev. “Until now, we’ve been working with two 40-year-old canning lines whose combined output is 90,000 cans per hour. Now we can run 120,000 cans per hour on a single machine.”

Equipment for smaller batches

High throughput is paramount for the companies aforementioned, but there is plenty of innovation happening in solutions for beverage producers operating on smaller scales.

The Rittmayer Hallerndorf Brewery, one of Germany’s oldest family-owned breweries, celebrated its 600th anniversary in the autumn of 2022. The company brews roughly 30,000 hectolitres of beer per year in craft tradition. It also operates as a co-packer for both smaller and larger breweries with its state-of-the-art filling centre.

The Rittmayer Brewery is growing its contract- lling operation with a low-output canning line featuring the Craftmate C filler. Image: Krones

For 20 years, Rittmayer has filled a vast array of highly disparate beers (up to 100,000 hectolitres a year) into a total of nine different bottle shapes. That has made it one of the largest contract bottlers for beer in its home region Upper Franconia. The centre serves mostly (but not exclusively) the many small privately owned breweries which are the hallmark of the beer-brewing stronghold Upper Franconia. There are roughly 200 breweries here for 1.1 million inhabitants.

The filling centre is now being substantially expanded to include beverage cans in its portfolio – marking a first for the brewery. Managing director, Georg Rittmayer, explained, “We take great care in ensuring sustainability in our company. The can doesn’t weigh much, it boasts a high recycling rate and does not entail any losses in quality.”

Rittmayer’s canning line has been configured for small batches. Thus, the brewery will be able to fill volumes as low as 15 hectolitres per beer type, which especially benefits the small, private brewers in this region as well as breweries offering many specialty beers. Since Georg Rittmayer is the president of the Private Breweries of Bavaria association, he pays particular attention to their specific needs.

The company opted for the Craftmate C filler from Krones, which features cutting-edge filling technology for lower output ranges. The Rittmayer Brewery is familiar with Krones technology, having utilised it for its bottling line, which features a Krones bottle washer, filling system and labeller.

Besides quality and optimum use of the limited space available, short changeover times are crucial for Rittmayer because the company processes small batches, a vast array of different beers and many different can formats. “Krones is a reliable, innovative and flexible partner for us,” said Rittmayer. “It’s true that Krones is well-known for its high-speed kit. So we’re all the more pleased they offer top-quality equipment for the lower output range as well.”

Geographic expansion

US beverage equipment manufacturer, Wild Goose Filling, has recently expanded its high-speed canning systems by offering them to the European market, with the introduction of its CE-certified dual-lane model of its Evolution Series beverage canning systems.

Image: Wild Goose Filling

As the fastest machine in the range of Wild Goose canning systems, the fully automated dual-lane Evolution Series models can achieve speeds up to 6,000 cans per hour.

The dual-lane Evolution Series features side-by-side patented inline filling stations to minimise beverage exposure time to atmosphere. Sealing occurs automatically through paired lid placement and patented Wild Goose seaming stations.

In addition, CO2 purging stations and Wild Goose DO Buster CO2 tunnels prevent dissolved oxygen intake to preserve beverage quality. Dual-lane Evolution Series models are capable of running both lanes simultaneously or one lane only for smaller product runs.

“We designed this canning line with European beverage makers in mind,” said Wild Goose general manager, Dan Welch. “Our customers in Europe have requested a high-speed canning line at a reasonable price. Offering CE models of our dual-lane Evolution Series canning systems gives producers around the world a reliable, high-quality filling solution for beer, wine, cider, or just about anything else at a lower investment than large-scale rotary filling machines.”

The newly CE-certified dual-lane Evolution Series system expands from eight to 10 fill heads for increased throughput. Wild Goose says it believes the upgradeable design and high-speed capabilities make the dual-lane Evolution Series an ideal canning system for growing producers of beverages and craft drinks who wish to package beer, cider, RTDs, kombucha, wine, cannabis drinks and more in cans.

Serving the future

Filling and canning equipment manufacturers must now be increasingly versatile with their offerings, no matter how large or small their customers’ lines. Not only is equipment training for factory staff an important factor to consider, but machines are required to have short, easy changeovers.

The sector is constantly innovating to cater for the needs of brewers and brands all over the world, with equipment becoming more streamlined, digitalised and cost-effective.

CanTech International will continue to report on the most recent news and technological developments in this essential process area of metal packaging.

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