From petfood to soups, pouches provide an attractive package for selling single serve portions that deliver the right amount of food to the consumer – or their pet – at the moment they need it, while avoiding the problem of storing leftovers in the refrigerator. Given their convenience, it is perhaps unsurprising that pouches are a fast-growing trend in packaging. However, when it comes to making the contents safe for consumption, the packages have their own challenges, including difficulties when it comes to handling.

JBT’s Continuous Sterilization for flexible packaging has been developed to overcome just such challenges. The culmination of over three years’ development, the system is based on the existing JBT Hydrostatic Sterilizer, but with the focus on efficiently handling pouches as they go through the sterilization process.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a substantial increase in requests for continuous systems for processing pouches, so we decided we needed to come up with a solution for all our customers that can handle pouches in a continuous sterilizer,” explains JBT’s Product Line Director for Hydrostatic Sterilization, Albert-Frans Brouwer.

Overcoming challenges
The challenge that the JBT team faced was how to effectively keep control of flexible packaging as it goes through the sterilization process. “You need to be absolutely sure you can keep control of the pouch during each step in the process because you’re talking about high capacity at a range of between 400-1000 pouches per minute,” says Brouwer. “With a flexible pouch, once you lose control, it’s very difficult to get back in control of the pouch again.”

JBT’s solution was to place the pouches in a dedicated pocket in a carrier where they stay in position for the full duration of the process. “Everything in our solution is aimed at keeping control of the pouch at any point in time, so you don’t need to regain control,” adds Brouwer.

Consumer demand
Developed for low-acid foods, Brouwer believes the continuous sterilizer will find particular favor with sectors, such as pet food, where pouches are experiencing strong growth. “Customers like the pouches because of the ease of use – you open the pouch and squeeze out the contents and it has exactly one serving for your dog or cat,” he says. “This means you don’t have to keep your pet food next to your human food in the refrigerator, so it’s a huge area of growth.

“Next to that we see soups developing across the globe, and then for example in the Latin American countries, we are seeing a lot of companies using pouches for refried bean products.” With the development of JBT’s Continuous Sterilization for flexible packaging, Brouwer predicts the trend will only continue to grow; adding effective food safety to an already attractive package.

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