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    Little drinks, big dreams: the world’s first climate-neutral juice factory

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    The European drinks manufacturer innocent has built a new, 100 percent electric carbon-neutral bottling plant – and fitted it out with four Krones PET lines and the corresponding IT infrastructure.
    • Solar cells are just one of many measures to reduce emissions from the "Big Blender".

    True to its purpose to make natural, tasty drinks that help look after people and the planet, the drinks manufacturer innocent has built “the blender”, one of the world’s first carbon neutral factories. And Krones is making a big contribution to the project in the Port of Rotterdam, delivering four PET lines.

    innocent is the European market leader for smoothies and wants to use its position to set an example and new standards in the food industry. Sam Woollett, Site Director of the blender, explains: “We have big dreams of making the world a better, healthier place. We aim for our business to be climate neutral by 2025 and the blender plays a key role in reaching that target.” Environmental protection has always been a key priority for the company. But since climate change is currently one of the biggest challenges facing humankind, innocent has made minimizing the carbon footprint of its drinks its primary goal. In 2018, these efforts were rewarded when innocent was officially certified as a B Corp – thus gaining another opportunity to demonstrate that a successful business can also be a responsible business.

    B Corp

    B Corp is a movement among businesses that believe it is possible to align sustainability and profitability within a successful business model. All B Corps must meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

    After many years of contract filling, the drinks company decided to build its own filling plant in order to better manage the sustainability of their own production. And they’ve done so quite successfully, bringing the company a big step closer to its goal: The blender is one of the first carbon neutral factories in the world, equipped with a combination of technological innovations and clever designs, all in the interest of reducing emissions in every area of its operations.

    The plant was built from sustainable, locally sourced materials and incorporates heat recovery, solar panels, and wind turbines (from 2024) to operate as a carbon neutral facility. A fleet of newly designed electric trucks transport bulk orange juice from a nearby storage facility to the factory, leading the way in sustainable distribution. And the location in the Port of Rotterdam is no accident: “It’s great for our logistics. It enables us to reduce the total mileage in our value chain by 20 percent – which, of course, also reduces our emissions,” explains Sam Woollett.

    But when it came time to plan the greenfield project, the company was concerned with even more than “just” environmental compatibility. They also wanted to create a pleasant environment for their 200 employees. They wanted to provide plenty of natural daylight, room to move around, and space for working together, as well as a safe and inclusive company culture, for a pleasant, productive time at work.

    innocent launched a petition in Germany in 2020 demanding that juices and smoothies also be included in Germany’s container deposit system. And again, they were successful. As of 2022, their containers are also part of the recycling loop.

    Four PET lines from Krones

    Right now, four PET lines are in operation in the blender, primarily filling juices and smoothies. But with an eye to the future, the company left enough room in the plant to add a fifth line if needed. The main criteria for awarding the contracts for the greenfield project were, of course, sustainability – that is, for example, minimized consumption of operating supplies and water – but also the safety and reliability of the equipment and the quality of the product and its packaging. “We sell a wide range of different drinks in different sized bottles, based on very different recipes. So the systems have to be flexible and capable of producing enough volume per hour. They also have to be easy to change over to another product or size. Two to three different bottle formats and around ten different drinks are filled on each line,” says Sam Woollett. “That’s why we ultimately chose Krones. They offered the best solutions for our needs.”

    Image 34157
    innocent's product range extends from orange juice to vitamin smoothies and ginger shots.

    In early 2021, it was time: Four identical PET lines were delivered. Production began in July 2022. The lines are currently filling at different outputs: One is operating at 22,000 containers per hour, another at 27,000 containers per hour, and the other two at 32,000 containers per hour.

    The Contipure AseptBloc DA blow-molder-filler block consists of a Contiform 3 Pro stretch blow molder and a Modulfill Asept aseptic filler. The Contipure D preform sterilization module features an especially sustainable design that uses very little hydrogen peroxide, steam, and energy and requires very short preparation times, thereby ensuring a low total cost of ownership (TCO). After filling, all containers are provided with a tamper-evident seal and – depending on the bottle involved – either a wrap-around or a pressure-sensitive label. Packing is handled by the Variopac Pro FS, which is just downstream of the Topmodul modular labeler.

    Filling under aseptic conditions ensures a longer product shelf life and preserves the product’s flavor. The lines are cleaned every 72 hours or as needed between products. A complete CIP process takes around 90 minutes.

    The Contipure AseptBloc DA at a glance

    • Suitable for:
      • High-acid products
      • Round and square PET containers
      • Standard and lightweight containers
    • Up to 70,000 containers per hour
    • Only one sterilizing medium: gaseous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)

    Trust-based collaboration

    From our conversation with innocent leadership about working with Krones, one thing is very clear: They especially appreciate the reliability and flexibility that the Krones team brought to the project. Sam Woollett shares one example, from when the Krones team arrived to install the lines:

    We’ve been very lucky with the Krones team on site. When they arrived, we were behind on the actual construction of the building. They were very flexible and supportive and helped move the project along. Erwin HächlSam WoollettSite Director, innocent

    He also adds: “What I appreciate most about Krones is that mentality of they do what they say they’ll do. We’ve never had an incident throughout the whole time we were working on the project where they said they would do something and then not delivered to that. All the lines went in on time, they would start running on time, the performance tests are happening on time. It’s that ability to actually just trust in Krones that has made it so easy to work with them across this whole project.”

    Image 34165
    “It’s that ability to actually just trust in Krones that has made it so easy to work with them across this whole project,” explains Sam Woollett.

    Digital technology from the Krones family

    Krones is also helping the project go digital: Krones’ digital technology experts developed for innocent a turnkey manufacturing execution system (MES) concept that integrates the new plant’s enterprise resource planning (ERP), process control, and warehouse management systems using the appropriate interfaces. These include various IT solutions from Krones’ SitePilot portfolio, including the Planning production planning system, the Line Management order and material management system, and Line Diagnostics for data acquisition and analytics. From our Share2Act Services innocent will use Connect, with which all information, such as shift schedules, can be made available digitally to all employees.

    With the construction of one of the world’s first carbon-neutral factories, innocent is pursuing the same goal as Krones: to deliver products that align with a climate- and environment-friendly lifestyle. Krones aims to put all of its innovative power into promoting a sustainable, efficient, and therefore continually successful industry. As a turnkey supplier with customers in every corner of the world, we have the expertise, the technologies, and the reach to contribute substantially to solving three of humankind’s great challenges: slowing climate change, feeding the world’s population, and using packaging responsibly. We have also expressed this in our new target picture.

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