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    What a match: Krones’ advanced aseptic solutions and Yili plant-based drinks

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    The Chinese metropolis Jinan is well-known not only for its many water springs but also for its internationally renowned universities and successful companies, which have gained the region a global reputation for scientific research and innovation. In short: It is the ideal environment for a beverage producer driven by the credo that there is “no future without innovation”.

    And in this article, I would like to spotlight one such company. The Yili Group has made a name for itself in the field of dairy products both traditional and new. Incidentally, the quote above is by the Yili Chairman and President Pan Gang, who has been heading the company on its steady course for success.

    This success is reflected in the recently announced half-year results for 2021, which once again show double-digit growth rates for revenue and profitability in the entire group. It is further proof that Yili lives up to consumers’ expectations and translates them into tangible products – in all dairy categories like liquid and powdered milk, ice cream, drinking yoghurt and other fermented drinks as well as in the growing cheese segment.

    But it does not stop here. Yili is also stepping up its business with plant-based beverages, which includes soy-based and the recently introduced oat drinks. These products are highly popular not only among fans of traditional Chinese drinks but also among all those opting for a vegan diet.

    And true to the company’s credo, Yili also scores highly here with innovative creations, like protein-rich drinks that promise top-quality, safe and aromatic enjoyment. 

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    Yili is also stepping up its business with plant-based beverages. Image credits: Yili

    Looking at every detail

    As our clients’ partner for aseptic solutions, we here at Krones know very well that Yili ranks product quality and consumer safety among its top priorities.

    We were able to experience it first-hand in every technical discussion of the requirements and design of the two aseptic PET lines for the plant in Jinan. Our aseptics team in Taicang was very pleased to note the client’s commitment to quality and the interest displayed by Yili’s staff in even the tiniest details of the aseptic lines. Needless to say, Yili pursues the same high quality standards for all other aspects of relevance to packaging material supply and hygienic conditions in the Jinan plant.

    In the end, Krones was rewarded with an order for two state-of-the-art aseptic filling lines, which handle a variety of on-the-go (OTG) bottle sizes at speeds of up to 48,000 containers per hour. And although the customer opted for Krones several years ago, the Lifecycle Service team in China has kept in close communication with Yili.   

    Microbiologically flawless

    Once the successful results for the first half of 2021 were achieved, the time was ideal for tackling the line’s mechanical overhaul and re-validation, also known as re-qualification. Our local specialists for Aseptic Quality Assurance, the “AQUA Team” for short, completed this process during the peak season, in July 2021. 

    The team used particularly sensitive validation media that render any kind of microbiological activity inside the filled bottle visible within next to no time. Although this validation method is not exactly the cheapest, it is considered to be one of the most accurate methods for supplying swift feedback on the aseptic system’s performance. The overall validation success is assessed by counting the number of contaminated bottles found in the batch filled. 

    I’d like to point out here that the nutrient medium inside the bottle, in conjunction with the mild conditions at which the filled and closed bottles are stored, would constitute an ideal basis for growth for any potential product-spoilage organism surviving the treatment processes. So we were all the more relieved when not a single one of the filled bottles we’d examined exhibited any signs of microbial growth, even after multiple individual close-up checks performed over an entire week. And although that result did not really come as a surprise to us, we were still happy to see that Yili’s and Krones’ top quality standards were met once again.

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    These products are highly popular not only among fans of traditional Chinese drinks but also among all those opting for a vegan diet. Image credits: Yili

    Pandemic-compliant local service

    This outstanding result confirms the high standard achieved in the aseptic lines’ first validation and demonstrated to Yili not only that Krones’ technology itself is robust, but also that our local LCS team once again did an excellent job despite the challenging circumstances. When you bear in mind that international support was out of the question due to the strict quarantine rules for those entering China, then this result is all the more convincing. 

    Even for domestic travel to Jinan, various safety procedures had to be complied with. In addition to a vaccination certificate and a recent negative Covid-19 test, our Chinese colleagues also had to submit complete travel records, confirming that they had not previously been staying in medium- or high-risk provinces.

    We at Krones are delighted that, following successful re-validation, the Yili team can continue to run a top-class production operation for its dairy products and innovative plant-based drinks – using aseptic technology “made in Germany”.

    Would you also like to kick-start your success story with Krones?

    If you, too, are looking for ways to safely produce and bring to market your dairy products and plant-based drinks, feel free to get in touch with me and my colleagues at Krones.

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