Having now reached 180 million bottles per year, Belgian brewer Martens claims that surging demands from the German market means that its production of beer in barrier PET has now entered the realms of mass consumption.
Since late August, beer has surged onto the German market in 0.5l PET bottles. Economically competitive, these bottles are fiercely competing with glass bottles due to innovations like the bottle's light weight (28g), the magnitude of the production unit, and mass production volumes. The Belgian brewing company Martens chose Sidel equipment and technology to meet the production quotas.
German laws mean more Beer in PET
As of January 1, 2003, new German legislation required that consumers return their containers to the point of purchase. This has prompted some German distributors to begin packaging all of their beverages in PET. The Belgian brewing company Martens decided to take on the challenge. Martens issued straightforward specifications to all of the packaging firms offering barrier PET solutions (multilayers, blend, or coating) These included industrial production capacity, strong barrier protection, 100 per cent recyclability and a material that could match the quality of glass.
The brewer eventually opted for Sidel's Actis technique. The Actis process involves depositing an extremely thin layer of hydrogen rich carbon on the internal walls of a single layer PET bottle using an injection of acetylene gas transformed into its plasma state by microwave energy.
Sidel cites the advantages of the Actis technique as being its industrial strength, strong barrier protection qualities (of particular importance for alcoholic beverages as they can permeate many plastics), recyclability and competitive economies of scale.
Largest beer PET packaging
Just a few kilometers from the brewery, in a new plant built especially for this purpose, the line installed by Sidel includes an SBO 20 Series2, two ACTIS 20 machines, air conveyors, and a palletiser. The EIT line monitoring system is installed on all equipment supplied by the company. This gives operators real-time access to all areas, via modem, and to all machine data in order to control, analyse, and propose any corrective measures.
Operating 24/7, this line produces 10 million bottles per month, or 120 million per year. It took 9 months for the project to become a reality. A third ACTIS20 machine will be operational by the end of 2003. At that time, Martens will be able to produce 15 million bottles per month, or 180 million bottles per year, Sidel claims. This represents the world's largest beer packaging unit for barrier PET bottles.
The bottle shape was designed entirely by Sidel's Design Department. It handled specifications, drawings, computer image, and structural analysis to optimize the weight/performance ratio of the package. It then performed sample selections and preform testing at Sidel's feasibility centre.
To reach cost objectives, considerable efforts were put into reducing package weight. The development of an 8-foot petaloid base means that the 50 cl beer bottle weighs just 28 grams, a world record for the lightest beer bottle in PET.
The design of the blending area between the neck and bottle body is conceived to reduce bottle deformation after filling and guarantee strength over time, tested under the harshest conditions (24 hours at 38°C). The characteristic looking amber, long-necked beer bottle sports a recloseable screw cap.
The Martens brewing company based in Bocholt, Belgium, produces 1.5 million hectoliters of beer annually. It sells products under its own brand names (Martens Pils, Sezoens, etc.) as well as distributor brands. An independent brewing company, Martens has been exporting products around the world for forty years and was one of the first European brewers to begin using metal cans in the late 70's. Martens has recently acquired several brewing companies in Eastern Europe.
Sidel is one of the world's leading manufacturers of PET packaging systems for liquid foods. Sidel employs 4,000 people in 25 countries and is a subsidiary of Tetra Laval.