Competitors cooperate in pursuit of progress

Mutual substantive feedback among competitors. Direct competitors sitting round the same table. Working constructively together towards a shared goal – doesn’t that all sound extremely improbable? Nonetheless, that’s the normal state of affairs in the work of the International Society of Beverage Technologists, or ISBT for short.

 

That’s because in this organisation specialists in all the highly disparate facets of beverage technology cooperate with a clearly defined goal in mind: to exchange technical and scientific knowledge, and thus achieve optimum progress. And that’s quite lot of accessible knowledge when the more than 1,000 members worldwide pool their expertise! Basically, anyone can apply for membership who works in the theory and practice of production on the soft drinks market, or is employed by a vendor of technology to the beverage industry.

Zacharias

And one person who most definitely meets this criterion is Dr. Jörg Zacharias at Krones AG. He’s been with Krones ever since 2005, and is part of the process technology R&D team for beer, water, milk and juice. As a specialist in the fields of rheology and process engineering, in his role as a Krones expert he is an active member of the ISBT. And “active” is in this context far more than merely a polite descriptor. After all, Jörg Zacharias is not just a simple member, he’s also chairperson of the “Sampling” working group in the technical committee for “Beverage Operations and Processing”*. This working group was set up in 2013 under the leadership of the Krones specialist, and is tasked with developing normative guidelines. It has meanwhile become an established body, and in 2014 demonstrated its productivity by publishing the “Inclusion Sampling Guideline”: members from various major companies in the beverage industry have got together and drawn up a report themed around sampling procedures and the relevant analyses.

 

In the guideline they authored, the specialists emphasise that analysis and process validation have been gaining substantially in perceived importance ever since more and more beverages featuring solid constituents have been market-launched. Fruit chunks, for example, pose new challenges for juice producers when it comes to assuring the requisite processability. And it’s precisely here that the guideline comes into play: it contains limits, nominal values and pointers for measuring the solids concerned. The ISBT’s specialists define these solids as all solid, visible chunks with a size of 2 mm or more that consumers will notice when they’re drinking the beverage concerned, meaning they have to chew them, for instance.

The guideline assigns the chunks by size and character to different categories, and lists specifically the various types involved. The body distinguishes, for example, between cubed and crushed fruit chunks, as exemplified by actual varieties of fruit. Quite generally, then, the guideline is not so much concerned with the processing of beverages as such –Jörg Zacharias and his colleagues are primarily interested in showing why measurements are essential, and what advantages they can offer. And because the bandwidth of input contributors is so large – besides representatives of Krones AG, there are also people from The Coca-Cola Company and from PepsiCo International involved, plus the Sidel and Tetra Pak companies – an extremely broad spectrum of viewpoints has been incorporated in the guideline. From raw material producers and bottling kit manufacturers all the way through to the beverage industry as such, they’re all represented. And this means the guideline is implemented in correspondingly diverse ways by a highly disparate spectrum of enterprises and companies worldwide. And if you think the measuring methods involved are expensive, high-tech solutions for large wealthy corporations, then you are seriously misjudging the ISBT’s work: actually, the measuring methods are based on simply sieving. And this means the amount of equipment required is astonishingly small, and definitely affordable for every production facility worldwide. In a first method, the total quantity of the chunks contained is measured; here, the guideline explains very vividly and comprehensibly how the measuring routine is performed, step by step. In a second method, the ISBT guideline describes how to analyse the size distribution of the fruit chunks contained in the beverage. Here too, the principal equipment employed is sieves stacked on top of each other with different mesh widths.

But although this first version of the guideline has been completed, the ISBT working group still has plenty of work to do! Jörg Zacharias emphasises that this first edition is only the basis for future expansion, and that they are already working on additional instructions. And with so many specialists gathered round the table, you can safely assume that the result will not remain unnoticed or unused on the market.