Since Leão attaches high priority to producing and filling its drinks in as natural a state as possible, and above all without any preservatives, the group changed over its filling modalities for ready-to-drink teas to PET containers: from cold-filling with preservatives to hot-filling without them.
“Successful cooperation with Krones”
In 2010, Leão was already operating a PET hotfill line from Krones in Linhares. The first product bottled there was Powerade. For making some of its products, two more hotfill PET lines were ordered from Krones. Due to what were back then high levels of demand for beverages in this category, Leão swiftly upped the production output by 50 per cent. When the new lines were installed, there were two challenges that had to be mastered: firstly, the hall area selected, measuring 3,500 square metres, had actually been planned for the smaller line ratings originally ordered, and secondly both lines were to be installed within a timeframe of only about four months. “That was accomplished within this short period, a huge success, thanks not least to our collaboration with Krones,” emphasises Dirk Schneider, Leão’s Industrial Director. “Over a period of eight months before installation began, we had an intensive planning phase with Krones. Since the ready-to-drink teas Leão Fuze and Matte Leão exhibit an entirely different formulation to Powerade, the project also demanded a rethink.” In order to nevertheless accommodate twice the output on the same area, the two lines U and V were put together like a kit in an exceptionally compact layout.
Retrofit option for the FlexiFruit process
The two lines are, with the exception of the fillers, almost identical. They each begin with a Contiform Bloc. The heatset Contiform H blow-moulder is supplied with preforms from a preform feeder, which first of all are passed through a linear preform rinser. An inspector checks the preforms in the feeder for any damage. The downstream filler is directly block-synchronised, and accommodated in a cleanroom with HEPA filters and overpressure air control. In what is called Line U, the filler provided is a volumetric Modulfill VFS with flow metering. For Line V, Leão has kept an option open for retrofitting the filler at a later date with the Krones FlexiFruit process. It operates on a twin-flow principle: the juice and the fruit chunks are routed separately at first, and are not intermingled until they are inside the bottle.
Line U was originally designed to handle six different container shapes and sizes. At present, it is being used almost solely for filling the 300-millilitre bottle with Leão Fuze and Matte Leão. Line V with the FlexiFruit option has been initially equipped with five different moulds for 300-millilitre, 500-millilitre and 1.5-litre containers. This line, too, is currently specialising in a single product – it is filling the two ready-to-drink teas in the 1.5-litre bottle.
On two decks
Both lines hot-fill the products at 85 degrees Celsius. After that, a Checkmat FM-G inspects the containers for proper fill level and closures. Directly downstream, there is in each line a heat-holding section on which the filled containers are transported lying on their sides, so as to also enable their necks and closures to be thermally decontaminated with the requisite dependability. Now comes the first interface between the two lines: both of them utilise a double-deck cooling unit, which reduces the bottles’ temperature from filling to room temperature. Here, the bottles from the one line are passed through the bottom deck while those from the second line travel along the top deck. The cooling water, which is being warmed up in the process, is used as warm water for flash pasteurisation in the two VarioFlash H shell-and-tube heat exchangers, which are located in the separate syrup kitchen.
Different dress options
A Linadry dries the containers, which are then dressed in full-body sleeves by the two DecoBloc labellers, whose technology enables them to be dressed in either sleeves or wrap-around labels. Leão is at present using the machines solely for the sleeve technology, but there is also an option for linking up stations of the Contiroll HS for wrap-around labelling. Once the PET containers have been dressed in sleeves, these are snugly shrink-fitted to the container’s shape in a Shrinkmat shrink tunnel, thus constituting a very attractive sales package amenable to multiple design variants
“Cooperation was truly excellent”
Krones was also responsible for the concept and installation of the entire syrup kitchen, which has been accommodated on two floors: the ground floor houses the product formulation system where suction pipe end pieces extract the tea concentrates from the drums and place them in mixing tanks. The kit can also process powders. On the same level, two product tanks are accommodated for each of the two lines, which through apertures in the ceiling rise up to the floor above. It is on this top level that the two VarioFlash H flash pasteurisers with shell-and-tube heat exchangers, and the two Contiflow two-component mixers have likewise been erected.
Installation work for the lines and the process section began in mid-2013, and the lines had already been acceptance-tested in September. “Installation went very well indeed,” explains Dirk Schneider, “cooperation between Krones and Leão Alimentos e Bebidas was truly excellent. You have to bear in mind that on top of everything else around 20 third-party vendors for the two companies had to be coordinated,” says Dirk Schneider, looking back.