HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT BEVERAGE FILLING SYSTEM FOR YOU
Choosing the right filling system for your bottle and product can be a lengthy process. There are many factors to consider and many companies that offer different technology. The “5 Ps” will help narrow down your search and simplify the purchasing process.
The first step is evaluating your beverage. Each type of product will have different requirements depending on its properties. Consider factors such as viscosity, carbonation, fill temperature, and required shelf life.
Viscosity of a beverage can range greatly. For most flowable beverages (meaning it pours out of a container) you can select a gravity filler that fills to a specific level that corresponds to a customer’s desired weight. There are other more complex filler options, such as electronic measuring by flow meters either mass flow, mag flow, or net weight fillers which measures the product into the bottle or electronically to fill to a specified weight. Piston fillers are a mechanical measuring technology that is popular for products containing large particles like chicken noodle soup, salsa, pickle relish, or very viscous needs.
Carbonation of your beverage changes the type of filler you require. Carbonated (fizzy) products such as kombucha, beer, and sodas require pressurized vessels to maintain proper co2 levels. For products that are slightly to no carbonation you could choose gravity, mass/mag, or weight, non-pressurized filler to accomplish your filling.
Fill Temperature is a critical factor when choosing a filler. The temperature affects how your liquid flows and will effect your production output. It also affects how you ship, store, and date code your beverage. Hot fill usually allows you to store your product unrefrigerated and allows for a much longer shelf life. Cold fill provides you with the freshest beverages and are usually shipped and stored refrigerated.
Shelf Life is another factor when choosing a filler. Depending on your intended shelf life, it will help determine what types of sanitation treatments should be applied to bottles and caps to maintain product freshness on the shelves.
The filling process that your product requires is a large factor in determining the right filler. You will often see electronic filling technology used in products with really high costs to allow for accurate fill weights even if the bottles aren’t the exact same size. A good example would be pharmaceutical liquids that can be very costly per ounce or viscosity beyond the range of gravity such as lotions, personal care, mayonnaise, condiments, ect… Gravity fillers are the most flexible with filling drinkable beverages at different temperatures. They fill to a specific level in the bottle. These bottles tend to show best on the store shelf. Marketing teams love gravity fillers because each bottle is filled to a perfect level even if there is some variation in product weight because of the bottle size variation. Most consumers don’t want a bottle that has a lower fill level than the one next to it.
The design of your package may have an influence on the filling system that best suites you as well. If your package is HDPE (ie: milk jug), PET (ie: clear plastic bottles), PP (cloudy looking ice tea jug), or glass each has its own special needs. Packages that are round, square, or rectangle with a handle affect the filler, rinser, and capper in a unique way. Its important to communicate your vision to the filler manufacturer to set you up for success.
In all types of fillers, production speed determines the size filler you need. In all types you can scale accordingly. When buying a filling system make sure to plan for future needs. You may want to increase your production from one to three shifts in the future, but you should also be planning on future bottles sizes and shapes that you may need to accommodate for in the coming years. Remember, it is easier to make a fast filler go slow than a slow filler go fast. Some fillers are designed to last a lifetime while others have technology or mechanical issues limiting them to 5-10 years. You will need to look for the most flexibility you can to ensure this filling systems works long term for your company.
The ultimate goal of filling equipment is to accurately fill as many bottles as possible everyday of its’ life. Initial price alone does not highlight the variability among manufactures. There are many interdependent factors that should be evaluated when purchasing a filling system.
- How often will I need to service and/or rebuild the equipment?
- What is the projected life cycle?
- How helpful is the company after the sale?
- How quickly can I get parts?
- Is the equipment fully assembled prior to shipment?
- Does the company have a good reputation?
- What’s included in the price?
At the end of the day no one cares how “high-tech” your filling technology is if the product doesn’t demand it. Or how fast it is if its broken and the parts are stuck in customs for the next three days because its not made in America. Its critical that you visit your potential filler supplier, more than any other piece of equipment in your plant. The filler really is the heart of the entire packaging line. At the end of the day, this equipment makes the most money if it fills bottles at day 5000 as fast as it did on day one. When purchasing capital equipment being used from multiple decades, it reinforces the old saying, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”
For more information on filling systems or to connect with a sales person please visit www.foggfiller.com or call 616 786 3644.