Ready-to-drink dairy is a segment experiencing phenomenal sales growth across markets worldwide. From chocolate drinks and flavored milk through to condensed milk, coffee beverages and plain milk with added vitamins, the category has been notable for its innovation and preference among consumers over recent years.

The global market for RTD dairy beverages in metal cans is large and continues to grow, driven by a growing standard of living in the developing countries in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

According to analyst GlobalData, consumption of RTD coffee beverages – most of which are dairy-based – is increasing worldwide. Globally, the segment is expected to reach almost US$49.4 billion in value by 2028 from US$33.8 billion in 2018 at a CAGR of 5.5%.

Still the preferred RTD packaging for consumers: metal cans pictured in a JBT can seamer

In terms of packaging, metal cans are still the preferred pack type for consumers, with volume sales between 2018 and 2023 up by 2.7% in North America and 3.7% in Europe. 

To cope with the varied and ever-changing needs of the ready-to-drink dairy market, processors require a complete, flexible solution that combines efficiency with optimum performance.

The global leader in primary packaging technology for high quality RTD dairy beverages in cans, JBT is the only supplier that can offer filling, seaming, sterilization, and line integration technologies from one single source.

More than 50% of the world’s RTD dairy beverages in cans are filled, closed and/or sterilized on JBT equipment, and to meet growing demand, several JBT canning lines for RTD dairy beverages have recently been started up around the globe. With canning speeds ranging from 150 cpm to as high as 1500 cpm, JBT owns the title of “supplier of the fastest canning line on the planet” across a number of lines, including evaporated milk, plain milk and sweetened condensed milk.

A complete solution

JBT’s complete solution for companies in the ready-to-drink dairy segment brings together the Unifiller (pictured above), the Can Seamer (below) and Continuous and Batch Sterilization systems, which sterilize the product and makes it shelf-stable. This is combined with a global service and project management team, ensuring smooth installation and start-up anywhere in the world.

According to JBT’s Special Projects Director, Bart Mertens, the solution covers everything that is essential for the quality and the safety of both the product and the container. “That’s our unique proposition and there’s nobody else who is doing that,” he says. “The heart of the line is JBT filling, closing and sterilization technologies.”

“JBT has a strong engineering, thermal process, service and project management team, with vast experience in the design, layout, manufacturing, installation, start-up, commissioning/hand-over of primary packaging lines for canned RTD dairy,” continues Mertens.

Limiting downtime and give-away

Increasing line efficiency and limiting product give-away is an important element across the entire solution with a view to limiting downtime and potential wastage.

In the case of the Unifiller, an improved hygienic design and a built-in, fast Clean-In-Place procedure allows for extended runs and maximum up-time, while give-away is minimized thanks to the system’s high filing accuracy. 

For dairy customers in the process of developing new products, JBT is also able to offer hands-on expertise and support at its pilot plant and thermal process validation capabilities in Sint Niklaas, Belgium and Madera, California.

More than 50% of canned liquid dairy products worldwide, including condensed milk, are filled & closed using JBT equipment.

Joined-up thinking

One of the advantages of using a single supplier for almost the entire line, Mertens continues, is a single point of contact for the entire project. “When it comes to the execution of the project, you have a single supplier to talk to, who takes responsibility for it, including the Key Performance Indicators, like line-speed efficiency and changeover times,” he says.

“And once the line is up-and-running, you have all the benefits in terms of line efficiency, product quality and safety. In terms of the cost per can or bottle produced, I have no doubt the JBT solution is the best as well,” Mertens adds.

READ MORE about JBT’s complete solution for RTD dairy beverages in cans