The global ready to drink (RTD) coffee and iced tea segment has experienced strong growth over the last decade, with consumers attracted by convenience, flavor innovations and health benefits. But in an increasingly crowded marketplace, how can processors make an impression? Price, quality and sustainability are three key means of catching consumers’ attention, and JBT’s Hydromatic Hydrostatic Sterilizer can help make these aims a reality.

The RTD coffee and iced tea has experienced steady upward growth over much of the past decade, driven by positive health perceptions and increasing demand, particularly in Asian markets. In fact, according to analyst Global Data, the global RTD iced tea and coffee market size is expected to reach USD 154.77 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 7% during the forecast period.

Key trends in the RTD coffee products include a demand for localized flavors, lower sugar content, higher protein and fortifications with vitamins and minerals. There’s also growing demand for dairy alternatives such as beverages made with oat, almond or soy milk.

These trends are themselves all driven by younger generations. Millennials are amongst the largest consumers of RTD beverages and are highly influenced by social media personalities.

But for this growth to be sustained in the long-term, GlobalData says the development of more sustainable packaging options is likely to be a key deciding factor with the topic ever more present in the considerations of both consumers and regulators.

Energy savings
JBT’s Hydromatic Hydrostatic Sterilizer offers a number of distinct advantages to companies working in the RTD coffee and iced tea segment. “RTD coffee and iced tea usually comes in lithographed cans and for that the Hydromatic provides a soft-handling solution which does not damage the cans,” explains JBT Application Engineer Maurits Glazener. 

But perhaps the system’s most notable USP is its environmental impact. The Hydromatic uses between 30-50% less steam for sterilization compared with retort systems by reusing the same steam energy for each new batch of products as they continuously enter the system, while water is also cooled down and reused, so little if anything goes to waste. 

“Utilities are becoming more expensive everywhere you go, and energy prices are expected to continue rising,” explains Glazener. “Reusing energy reduces our customers’ carbon footprint, but it also enables producers to reduce the cost per can by processing easier, better and at a lower price. The product enters the system semi-cold, we put energy into it via steam; we reuse that energy and put it back in to the next products entering the system.”

Under the hydrostatic principle, steam in the sterilized zone (red) is balanced by the two water columns

Key advantages
The mass availability of RTD coffee and iced tea has changed overall consumer behaviour, according to JBT Project Manager Tim Castelijn. “This availability has influenced what consumers want to drink and how they want to drink it,” he says. “And you can see in the market that a lot of producers are making these drinks in a wide variety. There’s a lot of competition, so the fact that the Hydro is able to lower the price per can offers a big benefit to customers.”

Better overall product quality is another advantage that can be realized via the Hydromatic, continues Glazener. With more even heat distribution, each can goes through the exact same process cycle resulting in consistent final products.

Labor is another saving offered by the Hydromatic, with the system capable of being operated by a single person. “There’s a lot of energy and cost involved in steam production because you need to heat it up, so the fact it can be continually reused results in real savings,” emphasizes Glazener.

Preventative maintenance
JBT PRoCARE preventative maintenance and the interconnected iOPS system are both available for the Hydromatic, which can work towards achieving years of consistent production. “The Hydromatic is a very low maintenance type of equipment, so we have yearly inspections to make sure the equipment is running fine,” adds Glazener. “With the inspections and preventative maintenance of the machine, it can run for more than 30 years. We have some examples of machines from 1972 that are still in operation. With our help and PRoCARE you can maintain a machine that runs for decades.”

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