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New Technological Innovations for Mixing Beverages
Time: 2013-03-29
Nowadays, the beverage industry is bigger, more trend-driven and more diverse than ever before. According to American Beverage Association, just its slice of the industry, which includes carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, ready-to-drink teas and bottled water, has already amounted to $119 billion annually.
 
Also, the industry is growing. In 2011, the market research firm Alixpartners has made a research, indicating that 74 percent of consumers surveyed in the spring of that expected to spend more in that coming year on non-alcoholic beverages than they had in 2010. What’s more, several market studies point to impressive growth in sub-segments including energy drinks, ready-to-drink teas and sports drinks, all of which more than eclipse the erosion of carbonated soft drinks sales.
 
Facing to this complex beverage industry, the beverage plant managers and engineers are bound to have more variables to work with and a higher level of expectations to meet. However, while it may be pretty basic on the surface, mixing and blending beverages and then packaging them for sale is not nearly as simple as it once was.
 
Pump Solutions to Handle Pulp
In the past, there was only formula for orange juice in the industry. But now, thanks to the pump solution, we can have no-pulp, light pulp or heavy pulp available.
 
According to Wallace Wittkoff, hygienic market director for Pump Solutions Group, which includes pump brands such as Wilden, Mouvex and Almatec, beverage processors need to thermally handle the juice differently than the pulp. When breaking the pulp sac, all the pulp falls to the bottom. So people separate the pulp and then add it back in at the end to whatever proportion they desire. A centrifugal pump could pump the beverage just fine, but could break those pulp sacs. But a diaphragm pump gently handles mixing the pulp back in.
Wittkoff also notes that the Wilden Hygienic series is designed with internal geometries that prevent pulp from getting lodged in seal areas or back sides of rotors so pulp is completely removed during clean-in-place. Otherwise, pulp can remain even after cleaning.
 
Better Blending Technologies
Except for the pump solutions to handle pulp, some of the most important changes have taken place in the blending room, where new technologies allow for faster, more accurate and more thorough blending of the ever-increasing ingredients and fortification that goes to today’s product.
 
According to Rick Earley, beverage and dairy market manager at Admix Inc, Mixing and blending for beverages is typically achieved in a large-format vat blending system. However, as beverage formulations have become more varied and complex, as well have come to include more high-value fortification and functional ingredients, the approach to blending has to change.
 
He also analyzed that all the beverage folks want to wet, disperse and blend all of these critical ingredients into a liquid. He says,“we are able to save them energy and reduce batch times through things like in-line and powder induction blending that takes place before the mix reaches the batch tank. Although most beverage plants have gone to high-shear mixers in their batch tanks, but with in-line and powder induction there is less heating and mixing needed once the product reaches those tanks.”
 
Additionally, ingredients can be mixed at floor level, eliminating the need to elevate those materials to the top of a tall batch tank, says Daniel Osiedacz, blending/mixing product manager at Fristam Pumps Middleton, Wis.
 
According to him, operators would rather not have personnel positioned at the top of the tank. And if blend directly in the tank, the operator has to have some way of getting the ingredients up there, as well as dump a big bag of powder into a vat filled with liquid a portion of it doesn’t get mixed in right away.
 
In general, batch blending will lead to a common negative outcome that undissolved, un-hydrated powder bonds together. Although those clumps can be reduced, but it is nearly impossible to eliminate the “fish eyes”, a name refers to the smallest clumps or agglomerations.
Although those “fish eyes” can be removed by some sort of filtration, but it will waste of raw material, according to Osiedacz. The ability to lessen or eliminate raw material loss becomes more attractive since beverage manufacturers add botanicals to energy drinks and vitamins to dietary supplements.
 
Premixing Cuts Running Cost
Also, according to Chris Ryan, technical author at Silverson Machines East Longmeadow, Mass, Premixing can reduce costs in another way. By preparing premixes, manufacturers can cut their running costs and formulate without the need for heating the base liquid. He says,“This applies to ingredients like pectin and gum Arabic as well. We know of two major producers who have come to our site for trials and have been amazed at the results achieved with water at ambient temperature. The savings in this instance would allow payback for the mixer in no time.”
 
While recirculating the slurry, powder induction mixers and inline blenders use pumps upstream of the vat mixer to meter and blend liquid and dry ingredients.
 
Among all, inline blenders work in three stages. First, high-speed rotation of the rotor blades within the mixing workhead exerts suction drawing liquid and solid materials into the rotor/stator assembly. Second, centrifugal force drives the materials towards the periphery of the workhead, where they are subjected to a milling clearance between the ends of the rotor blades and the inner wall of the stator. Third, the intense hydraulic shear forces the materials at high velocity through the perforations in the stator, and then, through the machine outlet and along the pipework. At the same time, fresh materials are continually drawn into the workhead, maintaining the mixing and pumping cycle.
 
Eco-friendly Packaging
Recently, an interactive website choosecartons.com has been launched by Evergreen Packaging, a company which specializes in paperboard cartons and related filling equipment. On the website, the company educates and encourages consumers to consider the eco-friendly attributes of packaging in their purchasing decisions.
 
According to Erin Reynolds, Evergreen’s senior marketing manager, consumers have conveyed that packaging is a major driver in their green purchases. It’s important for consumers to be aware of the environmental attributes paper cartons offer, and choosecartons.com will help raise that awareness.
 
Cartons are lightweight and have a great product-to-package ratio. The company notes that if consumers choose a product in a carton, they are taking home an average of 94 percent product and only 6 percent package. In addition, cartons are made with renewable materials – more than 70 percent of the Evergreen carton is made from paper, all from trees from responsibly managed forests.
 
Reynolds also says that Choosecartons.com allows visitors to share facts about why consumers can feel good about purchasing products in cartons. For consumers who feel strongly about their packaging choices, the site provides a number of interactive tools to share carton advocacy with social media audiences, brands and retailers.
 
As part of the campaign, Evergreen Packaging is also making a monetary donation to Habitat for Humanity.
Of course, it doesn’t end there since filling and packaging equipment has also changed dramatically. What’s more, throughout a beverage plant, there are ongoing efforts to reduce energy use and push the envelope on the levels of hygiene, functionality and ease of maintenance.