Technology and innovation
Through our proprietary technology, know-how and continuous innovation, we aim to deliver benefits to consumers and attractive returns for our customers. Sustainability is a key priority, and we devote significant resources to driving our net positive ambition. Our extensive internal R&D competences are augmented through external partnerships with innovative suppliers to the packaging and food and beverage industries.
Product development: extending aluminium-layer-free solutions to more products
In 2022, SIG continued to lead the industry with our pioneering SIGNATURE portfolio of full barrier aseptic cartons without an aluminium layer. Our SIGNATURE portfolio reduces the CO2 footprint of a carton by up to 58% compared with our standard carton structures. In January, we launched SIGNATURE EVO, which expands this offering – already available for plain white milk – to oxygen-sensitive products such as fruit juices, nectars, flavoured milk and plant-based beverages.
Our packaging protects these products over long periods of time without the need for refrigeration and without preservatives. This enables our customers to bring low-impact packaging solutions to more categories and more consumers around the world, supporting their public commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. Our SIGNATURE EVO sleeves are compatible with our installed base of filling machines and, like all our packs, SIGNATURE EVO is fully recyclable in existing recycling streams.
The next phase of product development for our aluminium-layer-free portfolio is to further optimise its cost structure to reach levels in line with our standard carton structures containing aluminium. This will ensure aluminium-layer-free solutions are more affordable and more widely available. Our acquisition of Scholle IPN is contributing significantly to this area, bringing in-depth expertise in barrier films. Technical feasibility studies using Scholle IPN barrier technologies in our extrusion process commenced in 2022 and will continue in 2023.
Leveraging technologies across the portfolio
Building on our longstanding expertise in aseptic carton, we aim to develop high-speed aseptic filling machines with in-line sterilisation for our spouted pouch offering. Our first in-line aseptic prototype will be installed in Costa Rica in the first quarter of 2023 for a large banana producer.
Until recently, technical challenges have meant that almost all spouted pouch launches in the industry have consisted of multi-layer polymer materials, impeding recycling. Mono-materials are key to a circular economy, and Scholle IPN has met this challenge with its proprietary Induction Bossar Motion Series (iBMS) capability – a revolutionary technology using induction sealing that allows mono-material pouches to be formed at a high production speed. Our patented diamond-shaped fitment provides improved sealability, and our fully recyclable RecShield™ mono film will ensure product quality and long shelf life.
In 2022, we began trialling our mono-material pouches with two large customers in Europe.
By leveraging our aseptic capabilities, we plan to industrialise the output of high-speed aseptic mono-material pouches. Ultimately, we aim to revolutionise the aseptic carton market with a mono-material carton that can be recycled entirely in the paper stream.
Fast-track consumer-centric innovation: benefits for customers and consumers
SIG has three major Tech Centres located in Germany, China and Dubai, where we conduct consumer-led research, enabling us to meet the needs of consumers in each region. We work with our customers to co-create innovative recipes that can be piloted on processing equipment and then on our filling lines. The Tech Centre in Germany is food-certified, allowing us to produce initial small batches that are launched into the market for testing. This reduces time to market for our customers and speeds up their innovation cycle.
Our SIGCUBATOR programme targets start-ups and small companies that do not have the means to manufacture at scale. Prototype testing takes place at a Tech Centre and is supported by expert advice and consumer-focused insights. The commercial launch of the product is facilitated through our global network of food and beverage companies. This programme has helped start-ups such as GROUNDED and The Good Pea Co. bring cutting- edge innovations to market.
Innovative filling machines with high levels of flexibility
The perfect package is delivered through a solution-based approach that includes filling technology and technical service. The size flexibility of our aseptic carton-filling machines contributes to an attractive total cost of ownership by reducing changeover times and enabling the customer to respond to changing retailer and consumer requirements more quickly. This includes the ability to reduce carton size to ensure that customers are able to maintain an important psychological price point for consumers during inflationary periods, especially in emerging markets.
Digital solutions further increasing customer efficiency
Around 80% of aseptic carton volume is processed on filling machines that are connected, allowing us to collect data on the performance of the filling machine, the number of packs produced and also the asset condition. We have developed a Smart Maintenance programme with GE Digital to leverage that data connectivity. The programme includes two software applications: Asset Performance Management and Field Service Management. These applications enable preventative and condition-based maintenance, and improve the productivity of our field service engineers.
Our PAC.TRUST solution provides the customer with complete visibility of the production process, from arrival of raw materials to delivery of the finished product at the point of sale. Full product traceability within minutes increases customer efficiency and offers added security for retailers and consumers.
This year, our highly intuitive user interface, SIG CRUISER, won two prestigious awards – the iF DESIGN AWARD 2022 Gold and a Red Dot Award Brands & Communication Design 2022. Developed as part of our next-generation SIG NEO filling technology, SIG CRUISER enables customers to set their complete production process and makes handling much easier for the operator, reducing the need for training or experience.