Editor’s pickCase Study: Krones Helps Brazilian Fruit Juice Producer Bottle Juice Aspetically in PET Containers
Bottling NFC juice aseptically in PET containers – with this idea the Brazilian fruit juice producer Natural One conquered the market within two short years.
Ricardo Ermirio de Moraes is a visionary. He can draw upon many years of experience in the orange juice business, was the founding father of Citrovita, and subsequently the long-serving President of Citrosuco. About ten years ago, he set up Natural One, and to begin with bottled ready-mixed vodka-based fruit juice mixtures in PET containers. In 2012, he then decided to launch fruit juices on the market himself under the Natural One brand. His philosophy and slogan are: “pura verdade”, which translates as “pure truth”. Meaning no concentrate or squash, no added sugar, no preservatives, but 100 per cent juice – and it was the first company Brazil not to do it in carton packages, but in PET bottles.
For this purpose, Ricardo Ermirio de Moraes had five million new orange trees planted on a farm measuring 2,800 square kilometres. This “fazenda” is located in the (cooler) south of São Paulo state. For many market observers, this was at first incomprehensible, because down there the sun shines less often and the fruits are correspondingly less sweet when they ripen than in the warmer north. But: the juice obtained from these oranges scores highly in terms of precisely this lesser sweetness and its vibrant, intensive colour. “Hitherto, it had been normal, for reasons of cost, to export concentrates. Ricardo Ermirio de Moraes was also the first to export NFC juices from Brazil. This decision, too, was at first ridiculed, but has proved to be visionary and right,” explains Valdenir Soares, who at Natural One is responsible for the New Business Development Department and had been tasked with internationalising the company. His verdict is unequivocal: “Ricardo de Moraes correctly anticipated trends.”
The time before Krones and the time with Krones
Natural One laid the foundations for one of these trends early in 2014: back then, the company was the first firm in Brazil to bottle 100-per-cent NFC juice in PET containers – in the autumn of the same year this had already sold out. “We were in fact a bit surprised at how high the demand was,” admits Valdenir Soares.
So a decision on expansion had to be taken swiftly. By the first week of January 2015, Krones had already received an order for a new line, and early in 2016 production began on this aseptic line. In Valdenir Soares’ eyes, the company’s success is very significantly attributable to the new Krones line featuring the Contipure AseptBloc DA: “We measure time in two epochs: the time before Krones and the time with Krones. Because this technology has enabled us to translate our idea of natural juices into fully functional reality.“
“The aseptic process was the best choice for a company like us that looks to the future. Consumers will be wanting products that are of high quality and maximised purity. Krones wasn’t the cheapest vendor, it’s true, but it did have the best technology. Stretch blow-moulding and filling on a single machine – that’s simply brilliant, especially when – as is the case in the Contipure AseptBloc DA – it’s already the preforms that are sterilised,” explains Valdenir Soares. “Until the end of 2016, we were the only fruit juice producer in Brazil to be using this innovative technology and thus also the only one able to offer fruit juices in the cold chain with a shelf-life of eight months. Mind you, we were very favourably impressed not only by the machines, but also by the technical skills of Krones’ staff, and their habit of continually keeping us up to date with maximised transparency.”
Natural One draws a distinction nowadays between products in the cold chain (with which it also began its production operations) and the newly launched products that are sold at ambient temperature. These are already accounting for around a quarter of total sales.
The whole company, he continues, has learned a lot from the exacting stipulations Krones laid down for the project. The high level of the new technology also had an effect on the outsourced parts, such as preforms or labels. As Valdenir Soares explains: “We decided to meet the world’s most stringent requirements, of the kind taken for granted in Japan, Europe and the USA, for example. This will be a huge help when we’re exporting to these countries.”
But the new line also made things easier for the firm as well: for instance, its fast output meant that night shifts and Sunday working could be dispensed with. The small line rated at around 7,000 containers per hour needed twelve operators, while for the 24,000-bph line handling 900-millilitre containers four employees suffice. The aseptic line passed its acceptance test with an efficiency of 96 per cent.
Ready for more
But Natural One is ready for more. The company is observing a fundamental change in fruit juice consumption habits. It has even come to see this category as a third major soft-drink segment alongside water and CSDs, and regards 100-per-cent natural purity as the basis for rising consumer demand. Natural One is now aiming to boost this abroad as well: in the neighbouring South American countries, in Japan, South-East Asia, Europe and the USA. The target involved is an ambitious one: exports of the aseptically bottled NFC juices are to rise very substantially within one year – from their present-day two per cent to around a quarter of total output. 2018 has been designated as the year of exports – this vision is also destined to come true.