The company’s partnership with Krones began in 2006, and over the ensuing years Acqua Sant’Anna installed five smaller filling lines from Krones. But then, in 2015, under the leadership of owner Alberto Bertone, the privately owned and operated bottler commissioned its first turnkey lines, complete with ErgoBloc technology, from Krones. At the time, the company replaced three existing lines, each rated at 20,000 bottles per hour, with compact, ultra-automated high-speed Krones filling lines. Each of the new lines was capable of producing 54,000 containers per hour. The new lines also had something in common: all three contained an ErgoBloc L wet end block comprising a stretch blow molder, labeler and filler. Acqua Sant’Anna remained loyal to this easy-to-use, space-saving concept for another capacity upgrade in 2018: the addition of two more ErgoBloc L lines, one of which was rated at 81,000 0.5-liter containers per hour.
You might say that, since investing in wet end block technology from Krones, the Italian mineral water bottler Acqua Sant’Anna has advanced into a different league – in terms of both its importance on the market and its level of technological sophistication.
Eight new Krones lines in the last five years
Following a three-year period of consolidation, Acqua Sant’Anna once again kicked things up a notch in 2021, with yet another ErgoBloc L line of the same rating. And now they have added two more lines of the same type: At the end of 2022, the water bottler put into operation a line for carbonated beverages. Then, in early 2023, they installed one for non-carbonated water. Altogether, that makes eight new lines in the last five years. And with that, the rising star among Italy’s mineral water bottlers now fills all of its mineral water on 13 Krones lines. Besides the PET lines, the Vinadio plant only has one smaller aseptic line for filling iced tea and flavoured water and a cup filling line. That demonstrates a high level of trust and a clear commitment to the wet end block. As Alberto Bertone sees it: “The ErgoBloc technology makes it possible to achieve high speeds and improve line efficiency by reducing container transfers between machines and the footprint.”
The plant lies in the Stura Valley, in the Italian Maritime Alps near the border with France. A 400-kilometer system of stainless steel pipes carries the mineral water from different springs into the filling plant in the small locality of Vinadio. Since its founding in 1996, Acqua Sant’Anna has grown rapidly and today produces around 1.5 billion units per year.
The lines each achieve an output of 48,000 2.0-liter bottles per hour and thanks to the ErgoBloc L, it takes just a single operator for each line to manage the filling, labeling, and packing.
New PFR valve for carbonated beverages
Besides its flagship brand Acqua Sant’Anna, which is low in sodium, the company has been systematically building a second brand, MIA Vallestura, with a somewhat higher mineral content. MIA and the carbonated version of Aqua Sant‘Anna are filled into round 1-liter and 1.5-liter bottles on a Krones line, which was put into operation in December 2022 and is designed exclusively for carbonated water. The filler on this line, the Modulfill VFJ, is equipped with the latest PFR valves, whose improved flow characteristics make it possible to perfectly match filling speeds to the properties of the product being filled. Because the electronic controls are located directly on the valve, a conventional electronics cabinet is no longer needed.
- The annual output of a filler with PFR valves can be increased substantially.
- Smaller pitch diameters are possible.
- The line’s compressed air consumption can be reduced by as much as 30 percent.
- Minimized foaming losses in the filling valves.
- Thanks to a product preselection feature, which can be activated at the touchscreen, the optimal filling parameters can be easily reproduced.
- Non-contact insertion of the automatic CIP cups ensures optimum hygiene in the area of the filling valves.
New square 2.0-liter lightweight bottle
By contrast, the Krones line which was put into operation in January 2023 fills only non-carbonated water and exclusively into square containers. Since the installation of the first Krones PET line with an ErgoBloc L, Aqua Sant‘Anna has focused on running dedicated lines so as to avoid changeovers and thus increase output.
The company has used square bottles for quite some time already. Compared with round PET containers, they offer the significant advantage of requiring less storage space. This particular line is configured for 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter bottles. The company had Krones develop and design the 2.0-liter bottle with the objective of creating an appealing form while keeping the bottle’s weight as light as possible. And they were successful: Weighing in at just 24.9 grams, the new container is one of the lightest 2.0-liter PET bottles on the market. In the past, Krones also developed a 7.2-gram 0.5-liter bottle for the company.
On this line, Acqua Sant’Anna also uses rPET for producing its containers. It could likewise run biodegradable bottles on this line, as it already does on two other Krones lines. These bottles are made of a polymer derived from fermented corn starch and are fully compostable in specialized industrial composting facilities.
High degree of automation
With what now makes eight ErgoBloc L filling lines, the Italian mineral water bottler has achieved a very high degree of automation and thus high quality, cost-effective production. This approach informs the entire operation: For instance, the company practices just-in-time inventory processes, meaning that a very high percentage of product that is filled is loaded directly onto waiting trucks. The small remainder of product is placed in a block warehouse that is served by automated laserguided vehicles (LGVs) from a palletizing center, in yet another example of the high degree of automation in the Vinadio plant.
For Alberto Bertone, there are good reasons for entrusting Krones with his entire mineral water bottling operations: "We've been working with Krones for many years and have built up a good partnership. We also chose Krones because of the dynamism with which the company takes on new challenges."