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28/02/2019 – News / Dairy / Yili / China / Sidel / Packaging

China’s leading dairy brand, Yili, invests in Sidel PET technology


China’s leading dairy brand, Yili, has installed two of Sidel’s aseptic complete PET packaging lines, including the Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis featuring unique dry preform sterilisation technology.


The world’s largest liquid dairy producer, Yili, is striving to provide Chinese consumers with high-quality, nutritional, healthy, and innovative dairy products. The leading dairy firm’s continuously growing sales demonstrate how they manage to be successful in differentiating their brand with the help of premium dairies. With its latest investments, Yili’s management team is betting on PET packaging to help advance the business – offering new consumer experiences compared with the traditional carton format while allowing for a more flexible production.  


PET project


Yili sees much potential in PET as a packaging material, offering Chinese consumers a user-friendly, shatterproof, re-sealable, and recyclable format. Crucially, PET also provides freedom in bottle design for Yili to differentiate its dairy brand on the Chinese supermarket shelves. Perhaps more importantly, PET offers great benefits in terms of physical product and food barrier protection, thus preserving the nutritional and sensorial properties of yogurts at all stages – from production, storage, and shipment to distribution. Moreover, the closure tightness adds to PET’s convenience even without the use of aluminium foil. 


All such reasons supported Yili’s strategic direction to partially switch from carton to PET bottle production, with the aim of pioneering innovative packaging in the Chinese dairy market. As part of this change, the firm’s Ambrosial Greek Yogurt – packaged in PET single serve bottles – has been highly popular since its launch. Considering the growing market demand for this premium drinking yogurt, paired with a willingness to innovate the brand, Yili decided to invest in a couple of new aseptic PET packaging lines. 


Frankfurt-headquartered equipment giant Sidel was seen as the “logical choice” for the required new investments, given Yili’s previous experience with the leading global provider of PET solutions for liquid packaging. 


Full barrier packaging with 5-months shelf life 


With Sidel’s support, the Chinese dairy brand became the first on the market to bottle Ambrosial Greek Yogurt in PET for ambient distribution – a product which had previously been offered in cartons. Sidel and Yili collaborated to fully qualify the PET barrier properties and ensure the correct type of PET bottles to allow Yili’s yogurts to retain their fresh taste and vitamin content. Given that a product’s quality can be easily compromised by the effects of light, oxygen, and temperature, such considerations were clearly crucial and justified the requirement for full barrier opaque packaging. 


Sidel’s experts in liquid dairies and packaging performed a range of laboratory tests to determine the behaviour of different liquid dairy products (yogurt, UHT white milk) in several PET barrier solutions (PET multi-layers and mono-layer with different rates of TiO2). The scientists evaluated different caps’ opacity to achieve the optimal light and oxygen barrier and ensure the product’s stability without any alteration in terms of taste or colour. All these analyses confirmed that the combination of approved barrier PET and cap solutions with the Sidel aseptic filling packaging solution would facilitate a five-months’ yogurt shelf life, plus safety throughout the supply chain for distribution at room temperature.


Sustainable, highly efficient lines 


Yili acquired two aseptic PET complete lines in the same year both including Sidel and Tetra Pak Processing Systems equipment. Every component was thus centred around one supplier, from process solution to PET packaging assessment, and from equipment definition and delivery to fast ramp-up. The lines, featuring a high-speed production capability to answer the growing Chinese market demand of liquid dairy products for ready-to-drink (RTD) consumption, also offer Yili the opportunity to move from the traditional wet bottle decontamination technology the firm was previously using to the Sidel aseptic blow-fill-cap solution, equipped with dry preform and cap sterilisation technologies. 


Traditional aseptic solutions use peracetic acid, which requires a rinsing of the bottles with chemicals or hot water – however, the Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis sterilises the preform by injecting hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) vapour into the preform, right before the preform heating stage in the oven. This allows Yili to reduce waste and resources while benefiting from a competitive, cost-efficient solution. With no water and almost no use of chemicals for preform decontamination, it also addresses one of the most difficult challenges manufacturers are facing today when it comes to an optimal environmental footprint. In addition to greater production sustainability, it provides high levels of efficiency and light-weighting potential for the bottles, as the containers do not have the thermal constraints associated with the traditional bottle-rinsing process.


Anticipating growth in demand


Yili plans to diversify its portfolio further with more value-added products in the years ahead, and therefore required a versatile production line to vary the recipes of products. Resultantly, the firm chose to integrate Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis as part of its complete lines, equipped with specific dosing valves with wider diameter and a low-high speed regulation in anticipation for future market requirements. To match expanding consumer demand in the years ahead, Yili also recently invested in three new additional aseptic lines with the Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis in order to enlarge its production capacity.

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