Budweiser Budvar says it chose to invest in a new KHS can filling line following a recent shift in the nation’s beer market towards at-home beer consumption.
In 2013 around 40% of beer sold in the country was consumed in restaurants and bars, the beer brand says, compared with 50% in 2005, with keg, tank, vat and barrel sales declining.
Budweiser Budvar is the No.4 brand in the Czech Republic behind Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Heineken – native industry average sales rose 1.5% in 2012, but the brand recorded 2% growth.
'KHS line is profitable – even if our can sales stagnate'
According to a recent case study released by KHS, sales of Budweiser Budvar in PET and glass bottles now account for 70% of brand sales at home, followed by 25% in kegs, tanks, vats and barrels and the remaining 5% in cans, a figure that is rising.
“To date we had our cans filled under license. However, as there’s been a distinct growth in the sale of canned beer, it’s now worth investing in our own canning line. Even if our can sales should stagnate, it’s still profitable,” Adam Brož, master brewer and director of production and technology at Budweiser Budvar said.
The Czech brewer recently installed a new canning line from German supplier KHS (it already runs three glass lines made by the company and one keg line) with an output of up to 21,000 cans (330ml, 440ml, 500ml) per hour.
The filling system is a volumetric, electronically controlled Innofill DVD filler with 40 filling stations, it could be modified in future to process different can types such as sleek or slim designs.
Electromagnetic inductive flow metering ensures that 500ml cans, for instance, contain 500ml of beer, where conventional fill level systems run the risk of overfilling cans supplied by different manufacturers.
The volumetric flow metering system also means that mechanical parts do not contact the product being filed, while membrane sealing technology on filling valves gives added microbiological safety.
Gentle, low oxygen filling process
Filling starts when the cans are purged and pressurized, with pressure reduced to that of the surrounding atmosphere one it is complete.
“This filling system gives us the especially low-oxygen filling process we want,” Brož said. “This is very important for us, as it gives us the assurance the high quality of our beer is perfectly retained in the can.”
After filling another KHS machine – the Innopack Kisters SP 040 Basic shrink wrapper – packs cans in formations of four, six eight or 12 cans using a ‘shrink tunnel concept’ developed for Budweiser Budvar.
This process involves optimization of the heating chamber and use of more efficient ventilators to save 15% energy compared with the previous model; a KHS Innopack CSM handle applicator then attaches handles to eight and 12-pack cans.
A Innopack Kisters TP 035 Basic tray packer (photo, left) only produces shrink packs of 24 cans, which an Innopal PBL1N1 column robot then places onto pallets ready for distribution.
Citing increasing demand for Budweiser Budvar both in the Czech Republic and in 58 export countries, Brož said constant line operation was crucial and said the brand chose KHS because it wanted a low-oxygen, gentle filling process.