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    Cacaolat has been saved!
    Cacaolat has been saved!

      “Salvem el Cacaolat!” The Catalan government’s urgent call for help “Let’s save Cacaolat!” was heard throughout the province and its capital Barcelona in 2011.

      And two companies, the Damm brewery and the soft-drinks producer Cobega, came to the rescue, entering into a joint venture so as to take under their wings the tradition-steeped Catalan Cacaolat brand, that’s become synonymous with cocoa milk in the region. Since 2013, the Grupo Cacaolat S.L., meanwhile newly founded, has had its production operation up and running in buildings that used to be a Damm brewery and were modified for their new intended purpose. Here, Krones installed a glass line for returnables and non-returnables filling milk and milk-based mixed drinks, plus a PET-Asept-D dry-aseptic line for the same products in PET bottles.

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      The facility currently processes 50 million litres of raw milk each year, about 70 per cent of this as fresh milk under the well-known brandname of Letona, and 30 per cent as Cacaolat. In the old factory, only the one-litre size was handled for filling milk in an ultra-clean line, nor was there any PET filling equipment for Cacaolat in this plant at Poblenou. That job was at the time being carried out by contract bottlers. In the meantime, everything has changed: Grupo Cacaolat produces both sterilised fresh milk with a shelf-life of 24 days, and UHT milk treated at 142 degrees Celsius with a shelf-life of six months, supplemented by the UHT milk-based cocoa mixed drink Cacaolat, which thanks to additional stabilisation has a shelf-life of at least eight months.

      Three bottling lines

      Besides the process-engineering kit for milk likewise newly installed for this purpose, Cacaolat utilises a single large hall for filling its products on three lines: one line for returnable and non-returnable glass rated at 10,000 bottles an hour with reference to the 1.0-litre bottle, a PET line with an hourly output of 12,000 1.5-litre and 20,000 0.2-litre bottles respectively, and – third but not least – a line filling small drinking cartons (fitted with straws), which will start up operation later. Both the glass and PET lines were supplied by Krones in their entirety.

      Newly designed Cacaolat glass bottle, both returnable and non-returnable

      At the retailers, especially outside Catalonia, Cacaolat is sold exclusively in the non-returnable bottle; there is a returnable bottle for the horeca segment (hotels, restaurants, catering), which is delivered in plastic crates.

      The glass line therefore had to be equipped for handling both types of bottle. The differences include depalletising of the crates of returnables by means of robot technology and a Smartpac unpacker on the one hand, and a Pressant bulk-glass sweep-off depalletiser on the other. The bulk glass bottles are then passed on roofed-over conveyors through the Linatronic empty-bottle inspector, and directly to the rinser-filler-closer-monobloc, where they are cleaned by a Moduljet, and filled on a Modulfill VFJ volumetric filler.

      Decontamination of the filled glass bottles

      On the other hand, the returnable glass bottles – once unpacked – are upstream of the empty-bottle inspector passed through a Lavatec double-end bottle washer, which means they can bypass the rinser in the filler monobloc. After they have been filled, a Checkmat inspects the containers for correct fill level by means of gamma-rays, and for the presence of a closure. The filled bottles are now sterilised. For this purpose, Cacaolat installed a special hydrolock autoclave. The containers are thereupon passed over a relatively large buffer table and then to the Starmatic labeller, which dresses them in body and back labels on two cold-glue stations. After that, the bottles are inspected for label presence in a Checkmat.

      Dry aseptics as state-of-the-art technology

      The PET line has been installed directly adjacent to the glass line and its heart is the PET-Asept-D aseptic monobloc. In the Contiform machine with ten blow-moulding stations, the preforms’ interior is cleaned to start with, after which the preforms are inspected using PET-View, and then blow-moulded. After that, the bottles are swiftly and dependably decontaminated inside and out with gaseous hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) in the Steriljet D container steriliser.

      The monobloc-synchronised aseptic filler, a Modulfill Asept VFJ model, accurately determines the fill quantity using an inductive flow meter. Since it fills the bottles in non-contact mode, it offers a high level of microbiological safety. The product is passed into the machine from above, which reduces product losses at the end of filling to a minimum.

      “When they opted for dry aseptics in the shape of the PET-Asept-D aseptic monobloc, Damm and Cobega chose state-of-the-art technology for the aseptic filling of PET containers,” emphasises Leopoldo Bufill Sagnier.

      Packaging versatility with three packers side by side

      After the bottles have been aseptically filled, a Checkmat verifies the fill level by means of gamma-rays, and the closure position as well. Letona fresh milk and UHT milk are then dressed in a wrap-around label by a Contiroll machine. For Cacaolat, the company also uses a Sleevematic labeller for applying sleeves, linked up to a Shrinkmat shrink tunnel. Between them is another Checkmat, which inspects the positioning of both wrap-around and sleeve labels.

      For end-of-the-line packaging, Grupo Cacaolat has installed three packers side by side. A Variopac Pro WT forms full-size cartons holding six bottles of milk in the 1-litre and 1.5-litre sizes, plus open 21-bottle trays without film for 1-litre bottles of cocoa. The second machine is a Variopac Pro TFS, which creates shrink-wrapped sixpacks without a pad for all 1.5-litre UHT milk bottles, plus packages of six 1-litre bottles of cocoa on a tray. The Variopac Pro TFS also puts together four sixpacks of the small 200-millilitre bottles of cocoa to form a tray-based shrink-pack.

      The two lines were acceptance-tested at efficiencies of 98 per cent (glass line) and 92 per cent (aseptic monobloc) respectively. “The installation phase was completed with impressive speed,” says Leopoldo Bufill Sagnier.

      Selected machines and solutions