Keen to move into the single-serve pouch market, but hesitant due to sterilization costs? JBT’s new Hi2FLex is not only effective at sterilizing pouches, it can save processors up to 60% on energy costs associated with the process.

Single-serve pouches are a fast-growing packaging phenomenon worldwide. According to GlobalData, more than 88.6 billion pouches were sold in 2023. This is expected to 98.5 billion by 2028.

Pouches are now being widely embraced across the petfood industry where they can be used to store 80-100 gram single serve portions of wet petfood for cats and dogs. 

But their usage is not just limited to petfood. The packaging is now being adapted by industries such as ready-to-drink coffee and dairy products, as well as some specific applications in regional markets. In the case of Mexico, pouches have been widely adopted to package refried beans, providing consumers with portions that are less messy and easier to serve than those stored in cans.

With the introduction of the Hi2FLex, the prospect of entering this booming market becomes even more attractive.

Introducing the Hi2FLex

As Maurits Glazener, JBT Hydro Application Engineer, explains, the Hi2FLex concept is a significant departure from conventional continuous sterilization systems. 

Rather than using a single water tower for heating and cooling, the Hi2FLex splits the process into multiple layers – with several preheat and precool columns – making it substantially more energy efficient along the way. This process makes even more use of the already present regeneration capabilities by giving the product additional time to release and take-up all the potential energy.

“The towers, which are used to house water columns, are used to keep pressure inside the machine. On a conventional sterilization machine, only one is typically used; by splitting them up, we can achieve a higher regeneration time,” explains Glazener.

On entering and exiting water columns, energy is gradually removed from a product, which is then in turn used to preheat the product entering the machine in the first water columns. The result is that the columns don’t have to be heated up using steam because they are already at the required temperature. By utilizing this regeneration, a significant amount of steam is saved that would otherwise be used to pre-heat the product before sterilization.

According to preliminary studies carried out by the JBT team, processors can save between 40-60% in energy costs by using the Hi2FLex. 

“That is a significant number,” says Glazener. “These savings can be achieved because the product is in the preheat zone for a longer time. By using more water columns, we can give the system more time to deliver more regeneration.”

As a more energy efficient system that produces high levels of energy regeneration thereby also retaining the best product quality, the Hi2FLex is a sterilization solution that delivers a strong Return on Investment for pouch processors within a few short years.

“When pressure goes above 26 psi (2-bar), the Hi2FLex is a great solution,” says Glazener. “It can be adjusted to run very low capacity to very high capacity 24/7. This flexibility means the Hi2FLex is well-suited to handling SKUs from refried beans or ready-to-eat meals to single-serve petfood.”

Another solution available from JBT, particular for high-volume pouches, is the Hydromatic Hydrostatic Sterilizer. This option provides continuous processing of almost all container types and sizes including metal, glass, rigid and semi-rigid plastic, pouches.

Whether used for condensed soups or ready-to-serve meals, the Hydromatic is ideal for processing products that require long cook and cool times, at high throughput, and especially for those deriving benefit from mild agitation.