Popular Types of Packaging for Juices and Beverages
What is the most appropriate packaging for juices or fruit-based beverages? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. The optimal solution depends on many factors, none more important than these:
- Who the targeted consumers are and where are they most likely to consume the drink
- What kind of distribution system is in place
- How sensitive is the product
The most important parameter to check while evaluating package performance of different packaging materials is their ability to protect product quality. Other factors that you should take into consideration are recyclability and shelf life.
Three very important properties which packaging should have if it is to aptly maintain product quality are as follows:
- Aroma barrier
- Gas barrier
- Light barrier
As you may know, nearly all juices, smoothies, and fruit-based drinks are extremely sensitive to oxidation, which can lead to loss of vitamins and unwanted changes in color and taste. The gas barrier attribute of a container plays a major role in determining oxidation rate and consequently quality degradation, but it is not the only attribute which is important. The other important attribute is oxygen exposure, which includes oxygen in head space, permeation through closure or spout, and how permeable the walls of the container are.
When it comes to aroma and gas barriers, glass bottles are just as good as any other packaging material, if not better. You can trust glass bottles to provide superb protection because they have perfect aroma and gas barriers. However, inadequate tightness around metal closure might lead to oxygen ingress. With that said, the loss can be easily minimized by using liner solutions, which are available in plenty.
Visible light penetrates via clear glass, as do part of UV spectra. This may affect compounds which are photosensitive, like certain vitamins. But it is very much possible to protect the contents of a glass bottle against UV rays. To achieve the same, use UV absorbers.
Fruit beverages packaged in glass usually have a shelf-life of 1 year or more. Usually hot-filling method is used for packaging beverages in glass.
Cartons, or the laminated cardboard carbon, are used more often for packaging fruit beverages than any other packaging material. While features such as package shape and openings are important to customers, differences in packaging material and filling systems in all likelihood have a bigger effect on product quality. Majority of shelf stable fruit beverages packaged in cartons are filled in an aseptic manner at ambient room temperature. Three companies dominate this segment. The leader of the pack is Tetra Pak while SIG Combibloc is in second position, followed by Elopak.
Hydrogen peroxide is used to form and sterilize carbon packages before they are filled and sealed. The product doesn’t come into contact with any air during the filling process in Tetra Pak. In case head space is required, nitrogen gas is injected in the product first.
In Elopak and SIG Combibloc systems, prefabricated blanks are used to form cartons, which are then sterilized and filled. If required, nitrogen is used to ensure the product is exposed to no or as little oxygen as possible.
There’s a barrier layer, usually a slim aluminum film, in laminated package material. This barrier layer is an extremely efficient gas barrier. However, micro holes might let oxygen to permeate. Micro holes typically form during the process of folding the material. Using plastic spouts on the outside keeps the package’s microbiological integrity intact, without affecting the gas barrier in any way.
The thin aluminum film also prevents aroma permeation as well as light ingress. However, oily aroma present in the product, such as citrus oils, might be absorbed by internal polyethylene layer.
The method which is most frequently used for predicting shelf life of a product and assessing package performance involves vitamin C. Vitamin C present in orange juice degrades because of oxygen ingress.
Typically, 1 liter cartons containing juice has a shelf life for 1 year. The shelf life of smaller cartons is lower.
What percentage of total cartons are recycled is something that differs from country to country, depending on several factors, most important being efficiency of the recycling and collection system. In some countries the recycling is as high as 90 percent, while in some others it is quite dismal, around 10 percent.
For consumers, PET bottles have obvious advantages over glass. PET bottles are not only unbreakable and light weight but also more attractive to look at.
However, the situation is somewhat complex for companies producin
g juices and other similar beverages. While PET offers a decent aroma barrier and oxygen barrier, it is not suitable for protecting quality of beverages which are sensitive to oxygen during long periods of storage. Moreover, visual changes, like fading colors or browning, are considerably more evident in PET bottles, because of their thin walls, than glass bottles.
Given the success of PET bottles in storing other beverages, the industry is focusing on finding ways to improve gas barriers of PET bottles. The aim is to find solutions that are have better gas barriers and are still cost-effective. While the experts of hopeful of coming up with a solution that would make PET bottles attractive for juice manufacturers, at least for the time being the standard PET bottle has sufficiently high oxygen ingress.
There are many alternative polymer materials which can be used in place of PET, like clarified polypropylene, bio-plastics, polycarbonates, and PEN. However, at present their aroma and gas barrier properties are inferior in comparison to PET. These materials will become suitable for fruit beverages only with additional barrier. Such systems at present are in the development stage.
All in all, fruit juice manufacturers have many choices as far as packaging is concerned. Before picking one, they must gain a thorough knowledge of not only their own drink but also of different packaging systems. Then they will be able to make the most appropriate choice. Check out our line of popular plastic bottles for juicing: 16 oz, 12 oz, 32 oz, and 8 oz.