As pressure on food processors to switch to sustainable packaging has grown, so a trend has emerged in the pouch industry to find viable alternatives to the layers of non-recyclable plastic used to safely store baby foods, purees, soups and other products. JBT has been supporting these efforts through innovative aseptic filling systems, which allow the safe filling of recyclable pouches without damaging their integrity by subjecting them to high temperatures.
“The pouch market is changing rapidly driven by the sustainability movement,” explains Patrick de Groot, JBT President for Liquid Foods in the EMENA region. “For aseptic this is a huge opportunity as these recyclable polypropylene (PP and PE) materials are sensitive to heat, therefore the hot fill and retort process requires thick and expensive multilayers. With aseptic technology, the process is mild with only a short sterilization cycle, followed by ambient processing and filling.”
“We’ve had multiple types of packaging in the world for many years: rigid, flexible and carton,” continues de Groot. “Sustainability is gaining a lot of attention with all the big players these days, but it is not always a straightforward process to recycle these materials.”
Although pouches have been around for a number of years, their typical composition – multiple layers with aluminum, PET on the outside and a further PE layer on the inside to protect the product – meant recycling was not a realistic option.
With awareness of sustainability continuing to grow and companies across the food industry investing in more sustainable packaging, so the pouch sector has also tried to find viable alternatives. However, de Groot explains that the problem up until now is that fully recyclable PP or PE material is unable to withstand the high temperatures used for hot filling, which has traditionally been the norm in the industry.
Here is where JBT enters the story. JBT’s innovative AsepFlex Linear Pouch Filler system is now providing customers with the means of switching to fully PP or PE pouches without suffering the detrimental effects of hot filling on the material.
“A PP or PE pouch is not as rigid as one with aluminium or Oriented Polypropylene (OPP), and therefore is not able to withstand high temperatures used to fill most pouches on the market,” says de Groot. “With aseptic technology, you don’t need to do a hot fill or go through a retort, you can sterilize the pouch without having to expose it to high temperatures, therefore aseptic technology is attracting lots of interest as it also brings the ability to process high quality natural low acid products.
“Aseptic technology is an add-on not only from a product quality perspective, but the technology also allows you to treat fully-recyclable PP or PE pouches with thin layers.”