One of the most significant advantages of going aseptic is the ability to produce high-quality food and beverage packaged goods that are shelf stable for extended periods under normal storage conditions. Because the products do not need to be refrigerated in the supply chain or at the retail outlet, you can not only save on cold chain costs but also expand your distribution to new markets, both within and outside the United States, while keeping production centralized. Because of the longer shelf life, your production schedule will become more stable, allowing for more accurate planning for both standard and seasonal products and generating cost savings due to longer run times and fewer product changes.
Furthermore, aseptic processing may allow you to reduce or eliminate the use of preservatives in your product. This provides marketing opportunities for the growing number of consumers seeking clean-label packaged food and beverages that are produced sustainably.
Doesn’t that sound like a win-win situation? It is possible, but the transition to aseptic processing must be carefully considered.
9 crucial aspects of aseptic food & beverage processing
1. Aseptic processing compatibility of the product
The first step in planning for aseptic processing is determining whether someone’s product is compatible with aseptic processing. While this process can benefit many products, it is critical to understand the sensory changes that the process can cause, as well as the cost and regulatory constraints. Any liquid product, with or without particulates, can be processed aseptically.
2. Costs of equipment and packaging
Once you have a good understanding of one’s product and market, users should think about the cost of equipment and packaging materials, as well as the requirements of the new process and the changes that will be required in one’s facility.
3. Invisible expenses
Take into account “hidden” costs such as infrastructure requirements for product and packaging sterilization, additional instrumentation, personnel training, and regulatory compliance. Initial capital outlay estimates could be two to three times the cost of new production. Furthermore, project stakeholders must consider the R&D effort for new packaging and closure design, which may include new secondary and tertiary packaging requirements. The costs of such requirements and changes can be used to calculate the return on investment.
4. Management commitment
It is critical to obtain management commitment to devote the necessary resources and time to address the additional requirements posed by aseptic processing. During installation and production, management must be prepared to assist the quality assurance department with training, validation, and documentation. Validation of aseptic processes is a continuous process that begins with product and process development and ends when a product or piece of equipment is retired. Product development, equipment commissioning, plant startup, microbial validation, changes in process or product, change management, and product and equipment decommissioning must all be included in the approach.
5. Participation in R&D and QA
Once the equipment has been selected, research and development and quality assurance must be involved in converting formulas and developing new aseptic products and formulations.
6. Prompt alignment
Align the marketing, R&D, and engineering departments early in the process to accelerate time to market. Make sure to clearly define each person’s role on the project and outline the project’s goals, which should be benchmarked by phases.
7. Food safety in aseptically packaged goods
The safety of the food and beverages produced is critical. Aseptically packaged products are stored at room temperature because they are shelf-stable. These products can be contaminated if proper processing and packaging are not followed, putting the consumer at risk. Every process step and piece of equipment used in aseptic processing must be designed and validated in order to produce consistently safe and high-quality products.
8. Education in the production of safe foods
All operations personnel, including plant management, quality control, maintenance, and engineering, must be adequately trained in the production of high-quality, safe foods. This training should include not only Current Good Manufacturing Practices and BPC School, but also ongoing professional development and refresher courses. To avoid complacency, training must be an ongoing process.
Document and securely store hard and/or electronic copies of production records dating back three years. QA should thoroughly review batch/lot records and closure integrity, releasing only products that meet the required standards. If deviations are discovered, a root cause analysis must be conducted, and corrective action must be implemented and documented.
Aseptic processing has many advantages for food and beverage manufacturers, but it must be carefully evaluated. Each process is unique, and the Tan Do Beverage team is here to help you weigh your options. Contact us to discuss your processing goals and develop a strategy.