Tetra goes retro with re-introduction of classic package

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Packaging, Aseptic processing, Tetra pak

Tetra Pak is going retro by reintroducing its namesake
four-cornered packaging, one that turned the Sweden-based company
into an industry powerhouse.

The company this week announced the global launch of an aseptic filling machine that can make the tetrahedron-shaped Tetra Classic package. The company has not produced a machine to make theclassic-shaped packages since the 1960s, the start of the heyday of the design.

The tetrahedron-shaped carton was developed as a means of creating a milk package that required a minimum of material whilst providing maximum hygiene.

Since the decline in use of the Classic from its heyday in Europe during the 1970s, the company has not produced a machine to make the package. Company spokesperson Lena Hedén says the new machinewill give fruit juice, dairy and still drink makers a marketing advantage in selling servings in corner stories.

Companies using the Tetra Classic for their products have been using old, often refurbished machinery originally produced during the 1960s. Now sales of the classic are mounting again, sparked by thetwo years of testing the new Tetra Pak A1 filling machine in 30 countries in Asia and South America.

Since the machine's introduction to those countries in the second quarter of 2003, production of the Classic rebounded to reach above the one billion mark in October 2004, a point it has not beenat for 22 years. The company expects production to double this year. During the test period the company has sold about 100 units of the filling machine.

Tetra Classic production reached its peak in 1974 at about 2.2 billion packages, then fell below the one billion mark in 1982, overtaken by the company's introduction of the brick-shaped carton nowmostly used by the dairy, juice and drinks sectors. By 1995 production had fallen to almost 500,000.

"This is a revival of the Tetra Classic,"​ Hedén told FoodProductionDaily.com. "We found that the Tetra Classic and the Tetra Brik are not competing in the same markets.The Tetra Classic is being used in the lower-end cost products in emerging and developing markets. They are being used for products bought in mom and pop stores and in the low-cost productshops."

The global launch of the machine was sparked by the interest in developing and emerging markets for the package.

Manufacturers are finding that the Tetra Classic's unique shape makes products stand out in the display area, attracting customers. Now that the four-cornered package is not used as much indeveloped markets like Europe and the US, the company hopes more and more companies in those markets will also make a strategic switch.

"No other filling machine can produce aseptic tetrahedron-shaped packages,"​ Hedén said. "This unique packaging system uses minimum material for maximum packaged content,so it's economical as well as distinctive."

Tetra Pak's fortunes was originally launched on the back of the Tetra Classic in the 1950s. The company was founded in 1944 by Ruben Rausing. His package design and machine technology forpasturisation took off in the dairy market. The company then expanded into the juices, nectars and other liquid markets.

Since it introduced the Tetra Brik the company has grown to become the world's largest supplier of cartons and bottles for milk, soup, fruit juices, and other liquid products. The company alsomanufactures machinery used for food packaging. It also designs and manufactures key processing equipment, such as homogenisers, mixing and standardisation units, heat exchangers, system and plantcomponents. It focuses on five food categories; dairy, cheese, beverage, prepared food and ice cream.

In September 1961, the company introduced the first aseptic filling machine for bacteria-free milk. Aseptic packaging removes the need for using preservatives to extend shelf life.

Aseptic processing involves heating the product to a high temperature in a closed system for a few seconds, then force cooling it to room temperature. The process generally results in less loss oftaste and nutrients compared to the traditional pasteurisation and canning methods. Aseptic packaging is a method of transferring the product into pre-sterilised packages in a sterile environment.

The new Tretra Pak A1 packaging line can produce up to 13,000 packages per hour, depending on volumes. It is built using a modular design, allowing manufacturers to make upgrades more easily ifneeded.

The machine produces the Tetra Classic in sizes from 65 ml to 200 ml. It is suitable for several liquid food applications in markets where cost is as decisive a factor as eye-catching packageshape, the company believes.

"They are simple to produce and use a minimum of packaging material for a maximum of content,"​ the company stated. "Moreover, the aseptic packaging material and process arehygienic even in hot and humid climates, where they can safely be displayed outdoors all day long at retail locations."

A higher level of automation is possible in markets with high labour costs. The filling machine can be combined with Tetra Pak's Soft Tumble Packer to achieve more automation. The machine can beoperated by one employee.

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