Healthy beverage, healthy business?

Low-fat, paleo, vegan, low-calorie, or sweetened with stevia: being healthy is booming. Or at least the aspiration is. Besides the sport sector, it’s primarily food and beverage producers who are taking this trend on board. But what does this trend actually mean for Krones, its clients from the beverage sector and the private consumer?

The private consumer

Let’s start with the private consumers: it’s really not easy for us. Because whereas tap-water, for example, comes across as too boring and flavourless, while lemonade, ice tea and co. are too unhealthy. We’re confronted with a problem: firstly, we don’t want to do without the sweet, refreshing taste of sun-ripened oranges in our soft drinks, and secondly we’re troubled by memories of Karius and Baktus. (For the uninitiated, these are personifications of tooth decay in a classic German children’s book of yesteryear.)

The beverage producer

Happily, however, there is someone to make the decision for us. Because the answer from the food and beverage industries is this: less sugar, fewer calories, but the same flavour. Sounds in theory like the ideal solution, doesn’t it? At any rate, the demand for low-calorie or no-added-sugar drinks is huge – and the appeal by the World Health Organization (WHO) for governments to introduce a tax of at least 20 per cent on heavily sweetened beverages has played its part as well. For the beverage producers, this means: experiment to your heart’s content and create new product variants.

The thing with the trends

That, too, still sounds exciting. So what’s the problem? Trends are in record time superseded by new trends. Here’s an example: whereas stevia only a few years ago was regarded quite simply as THE healthy sweetener, a short time later it had been dethroned again due to suspected side-effects. And that was that for the supremacy of the once-so-promising stevia plant. The new trend: coconut water, green smoothies and detox water. Many product creations are thus destined for a brief lifetime. Which means the watchword for present-day beverage producers is this: be fast, creative, adaptable, flexible, agile and dynamic. Phew!

The machinery vendor

What already sounds like mission impossible, however, is not even the biggest challenge. Because this is where Krones comes in. The firm’s task is to create with its machines and lines precisely this free scope for experimentation. And that means: even faster, even more creative, even more adaptable, flexible, agile and dynamic than its clients. In terms of beverage production and filling all the way through to packaging. After all, whereas in the past a line would have been bottling only two or three different beverages, some of them now have to handle ten to twenty variants. And then on top of that filled in large, small, plastic or glass containers.

One step ahead of the trend curve

All in all, this entails a very sizeable bandwidth of combinations and variations, and poses a genuine challenge for Krones. But our experts have a solution for everything – and if there isn’t a solution yet, then they find one: frequent change-overs due to the multiplicity of container types? Shorter change-over times. A rising number of beverages, with concomitantly smaller batches? Smaller machines. Experiments and fine-tuning in the mixing ratio required? Sophisticated valve technology.

Had I claimed at the beginning that we private consumers don’t have things easy? Okay – I think I’ll withdraw that remark. And while I’m enjoying my no-reduced-sugar ice tea, as far as I’m concerned the trends can do whatever they like.