“During the Niche’s selection of a packaging machinery supplier, Sidel’s long-standing experience in aseptic PET applications and packaging played a key role in our decision. Their dedicated local sales force and after-sales service capabilities, as well as the technical expertise that were evident in our business discussions, simplified the choice. These latter elements, especially, helped our technical team build trust in Sidel. Their buy-in was decisive for the rest of the staff at Niche Cocoa,” highlights Poku.
Ultimately, Niche Cocoa opted for a low-speed (16,000 bottles per hour) aseptic PET complete solution, which integrates Tetra Pak Processing Systems technologies and the Sidel Aseptic Combi Predis with dry preform and cap sterilization systems, two units of Gebo OptiDry, a sleeve labeller, a VersaFilm Access shrink-wrapping system, and finally a stretch wrapper.
Also included in Niche’s scope is Sidel’s EIT (Efficiency Improvement Tool), a market-leading data acquisition and plant intelligence system supporting beverage companies in decreasing unplanned downtime, reducing waste and costs, and increasing factory output.
Sidel’s aseptic dry preform sterilization technology – known as Predis – offers food safety and simplicity at the utmost. It supports the brand promise around product quality. Poku adds, “We strongly believe in the environmental credentials of PET, its 100% recyclability, its affordability, its lightweight potential, and the dramatic savings in water usage and chemical consumption made possible by Predis. Its ease of operation was very attractive to us as well, since this is our first foray into the beverage industry, and the first time we will manage an aseptic packaging process.”
With 180 references installed worldwide, Sidel’s Aseptic Combi Predis is a well-proven concept that received US FDA validation back in 2017 – an industry-first. Since its launch, it has successfully decontaminated over 60 billion bottles globally while saving over 10 billion liters of water and 60,000 tons of PET.
“No other shelf-stable chocolate milk produced in Ghana is aseptically filled in PET bottles. Niche has always been an innovation-driven company with a regional focus, so opting for Sidel technology is an investment that reconfirms our values,” says Poku.
Attractive and convenient PET packaging for young consumers
In addition to the state-of-the-art equipment, the Ghanaian company is also relying on Sidel’s 40-year history of bottle design and qualification. “Packaging plays a pivotal role in our marketing mix and represents one of the main enablers of our brand promise, alongside the origin of our ingredients and high product quality,” Poku emphasizes.
In 2019, Niche Cocoa visited Sidel’s factory in Italy as well as some of their liquid dairy customers’ installations in the country. The trip afforded valuable insights into the advantages PET could offer Niche’s market in Ghana. The inherent characteristics of PET were the deciding factors for Niche’s team: the flexibility of bottle size and shape, its lightweight, a premium look and feel that attracts very young consumers, the protection the material offers to the beverage, the performance through a complicated supply chain, and, finally, the affordability of the content.
For their RTD chocolate milk, Niche opted for a sleek, transparent, 250 ml PET bottle, enhanced by wavy ribs that gently envelop the body of the container. This original design is intended to evoke the idea of mouth-watering ripples created by pouring chocolate into a cup of milk. This same motif will be reflected on the full-sleeve label, thereby capturing the target audience’s attention even before they taste the drink.
Both the bottle’s structure and weight (15 g) have been optimized for an ideal drinking experience: it has been designed with a lightweight 32 mm bottleneck and a StarLITE base, offering the potential for reduced blowing pressure. The container does not require an aluminum foil due to the neck and cap tightness, and complete food safety is assured by the aseptic dry preform and cap sterilization solution.
Niche Cocoa’s long-term vision: Expansion to other African countries
The ‘Ghana School Feeding Programme’ is a one-of-a-kind project that involves making healthy products readily available to the younger generation within Ghana. Mary Marshall, Confectionery Operations Manager at Niche Cocoa, explains where this journey could take the company: “We constructed a new facility to house this compact, complete aseptic line. We expect this initiative to achieve measurable success by the end of 2021, after which point we will consider installing similar lines in other countries.”
“Our mid-term goal is not only to serve school children in Ghana, but to sell our products to everyone in the country, while our longterm strategy includes expanding to other African countries, such as South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast. People’s health and good nutrition practices are what we seek to defend, within our borders and beyond.”