The worldwide success of soft drinks started with the invention of aerated water during the seventeenth century. Pharmacists believed in the health effect of aerated water, although claims for the medicinal properties of these mineral waters were grossly exaggerated.
Further experimentation with different ingredients, like herbs and fruits, followed. In some cases the water was sweetened with sugar and this resulted in a new type of beverage: the soft drink. The initial alternative to “hard” spirits proved to be a success story, resulting in one of the largest beverage industry segments worldwide. The consumption of soft drinks has become a fixture of today’s lifestyle with up to 155 liters consumed per capita annually.
Although the main aspect of soft drinks remains refreshment generated by carbonization with the addition of sugars and acids, the health aspect continues to gain importance due to the increased health consciousness of consumers. To follow this trend, the number of diet products on the market containing artificial sweeteners, reduced sugar, and special formulations, including vitamins, Q enzymes, proteins, and more, continues to rise. As the total concentration of artificial sweeteners is much lower compared to sugar or HFCS, concentration fluctuations are more difficult to detect and require more precise measurement during production and in the final packaged product.
Operational demands to comply with quality standards
Beverage manufacturers now face a complex range of operational demands, from the need to comply with exacting quality standards to the ability to measure new and different components as well as meeting rigorous production schedules, all while satisfying consumers’ ever-evolving tastes and preferences. The only solution to manage all these criteria is to initiate a comprehensive quality assurance and control program, a key component of which is the measurement of the critical quality parameters °Brix, sugar inversion, % Diet, CO2, and many others. Manufacturing products within the specified limits of these parameters is essential for consistent product quality and taste.
Quality control for defect prevention and defect identification
Typically, product quality measurements are performed both in the laboratory and process environment, their focus is, however, shifting. While quality assurance is process-oriented and focuses on defect prevention, quality control is product-oriented and focuses on defect identification. In this light, laboratory measurements are now viewed more as a verification measurement to ensure the inline measurement is correct. The laboratory sampling frequency is reduced, thus saving time and allowing operators to perform other tasks.
As a result of this development, the need for real-time process monitoring for continuous quality control and assurance has significantly increased. While the laboratory measurements remain the reference for process instrumentation the continuous measurement of key parameters directly inline provides means for detecting quality deviations or problems immediately and enables appropriate actions to be taken. Additionally, production parameters are continuously tracked and stored for reporting and statistical process control. In other words, the importance of data connectivity between inline, at-line and laboratory beverage analyzers is more important than ever and a complete solution is needed.
The world’s first complete soft drink solution provider linking process and laboratory instrumentation
Anton Paar is the world’s first complete solution provider for soft drink analysis. With more than 25 industry-specific instruments to choose from, the customer can individually combine laboratory and process instrumentation to perfectly fit any production requirements. The direct connection of Anton Paar’s laboratory soft drink analyzing systems with Davis 5 evaluation software supports, semi-automates, and simplifies the calibration of process sensors at the push of a button, immediately reducing out-of-spec product and ensuring product and brand reputation.
Inline and laboratory soft drink analyzer – an example
When a sample package is taken from the filler, a simple push of the button on the Cobrix 5 touch panel automatically saves the live process values with a unique timestamp. When the sample is ready to be measured in the laboratory, it is given a specific name (either manually or via a scanned bar code, label, or similar) and the measurement with the laboratory soft drink analyzer PBA-SD is started. In just a few minutes, the measurement is complete and all measured parameters are displayed. As the Davis 5 evaluation software communicates with both the laboratory and process systems, the operator simply verifies that the laboratory measurement corresponds with the saved process values and clicks OK. Davis 5 automatically calculates the standard deviation of the values, notifies the operator if everything is within specifications, recommends an adjustment if needed, and records the data in the database. No more hand written notes, printouts, or communication errors.
With a complete analyzing solution it is possible to track 15+ parameters from any location in the plant. The system continuously collects and stores data, generates customized automated reports, including e.g. standard deviation, operating times, line downtimes, and quality data (Cp, Cpk, Quality Index, etc.). Universal data integration between laboratory and process instruments streamlines the documentation process, drives data consistency, and minimizes transcription errors. All reports can be exported as an XML or PDF file or sent to a smartphone, tablet or PC. With an XML interface the data is seamlessly integrated with various Statistical Process Control solutions.
The soft drink analyzing systems are the result of more than 40 years of expertise in inline, at-line, and laboratory beverage analysis. Based on thousands of samples, the measuring portfolio includes first-class instruments for continuous, accurate, and safe measurement of key quality parameters such as °Brix, sugar inversion, % Diet concentration, dissolved CO2 and O2, calories, and many more.
The challenge for the future
It is unlikely that the analysis requirements for soft drink manufacturers will diminish. Moreover, it is highly likely that greater product diversity and stringent regulations will challenge manufacturers to streamline their analytical procedures even more in the near future. Using laboratory, at-line and inline instruments of the highest accuracy and based on the same measuring principles makes comparison easy, while data connectivity saves time, eliminates errors, and automates the reporting and statistical analysis.
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Authors: Daniel Gore, Miha Zavrsnik, Angelika Scheiflinger-Latal