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Concept of UHT Processing

UHT (Ultra-high temperature) processing (or ultra-pasteurization) heats drinks and foods to a very high temperature (135-150 degrees centigrade) for a short time, often only for two to five seconds, killing microorganisms, eliminating pathogens and deactivating organisms and enzymes that contribute to spoilage or risk of disease, cooling rapidly (flash cooling), and aseptic packaging in sterile containers such as cartons, pouches or bottles.

UHT heat treatment requires complex production plants and equipment to maintain a sterile atmosphere between processing and packaging including packaging materials, pipework, tanks, pumps etc. Maintaining sterility throughout the various stages of the process is crucial.

In UHT treatment, the goal is to maximise the destruction of microorganisms while minimising the chemical changes in the product. That means finding the optimal combination of temperature and processing time for different types of food and beverage products.

UHT Processing

HEAT STERILIZATION

There are two major types of heat sterilization. The heating medium one elects depends entirely on the product.

The two alternative methods of UHT treatment are direct and indirect heating.

Direct heating systems have the advantage that the product is held at a high temperature for a shorter period of time, thereby reducing the thermal damage for the sensitive products such as milk. Direct systems require relatively high energy consumption compared to indirect UHT treatment systems. In contrast, indirect methods, which involve tubular or plate heat exchangers, heat the milk more slowly and hence cause more chemical change for the same bactericidal effect as the direct methods.

There are two groups of direct heating UHT systems:

  • Injection-based, where the high-pressure steam is injected into the liquid. It allows fast heating and cooling, but is only suitable for some products. As the product comes in direct contact with the hot nozzle, there is a possibility of local overheating.

  • Infusion-based, where the liquid is pumped through a specially designed nozzle into a chamber with high-pressure steam at a relatively low concentration, providing a large surface contact area. This method achieves near-instantaneous heating and cooling and even distribution of temperature, avoiding local overheating. It is suitable for heating milk and liquids of both low and high viscosity.

Milk Proteins | UHT milk packaged

In indirect systems, the product is heated by heat exchangers similar to those used for pasteurization. However, as higher temperatures are applied, it is necessary to employ higher pressures in order to prevent boiling. There are three types of exchangers in use:

  • Plate heat exchangers

  • Tubular heat exchangers

  • Scraped-surface exchangers

A plate heat exchanger can offer highly cost-efficient UHT processing with excellent heat regeneration. Optimized plate designs are used to maximize heat transfer efficiency and enhance cleanability.

The principal stages of UHT processing

  • Preheating with or without a holding time

  • Homogenization – part of the process that is specifically for milk as it increases the size and the number of fat globules in the milk which reduces milk’s tendency to form cream at the surface, and on contact with containers enhances its stability and makes it more palatable for consumers.

  • Heating to sterilisation temperature - a process of continuous ultra-high temperature treatment

  • Initial cooling

  • Final cooling

  • Aseptic packaging

CIP (clean-in-place) circuits are utilized to clean UHT systems.

Pasteurized milk | Continuous thermal processing

Product Suitability:

The technology provides value-added food preservation for many foods. UHT is most commonly associated with milk and flavoured milk, however, it also can be used for multiple low acid foods and fruit beverage products such as: 

  • Milk (UHT, ESL) with different fat content
  • Clinical nutrition products
  • Child, infant and baby food
  • Drinking yoghurt
  • Milk mixed drinks/whey drinks
  • Fruit juices with and without fibers
  • Soup with and without particles
  • Ketchup
  • Dairy drinks
  • Plant-based-drinks
  • Soya milk
  • Weight management drinks
  • Drinks-to-go
  • Cow milk
  • Goat milk
  • Camel milk
  • Sheep milk
  • Dairy milk
  • Liquid milk
  • Semi skimmed milk
  • Full fat milk
  • Drinks - plant-based
  • Cafe /  Coffee / Chai latte drinks
  • Aseptic beverages
  • Long-life milk
  • Vegan drinks
  • Long-life drinks
  • Shots
  • Children's drinks
  • Hydration drinks
  • Smoothies
  • Energy drinks
  • Prebiotic drinks
  • Probiotic drinks
  • Meal replacement drinks
  • Oat milk
  • Vitality drink
  • Diet shakes
  • QSR drinks
  • Immune system drink
  • Liquid breakfast
  • Muesli drinks
  • Flavoured milk
  • Soy milk
  • Kefir
  • Water
  • Pea beverages
  • Almond drinks
  • Rice drinks
  • Coconut drinks
  • Orange juice
  • Apple juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Milkshakes
  • Bottled water
  • Springwater
  • Nut milks
  • Cold brews
  • Kids drinks
  • Infant and baby nutrition
  • Protein waters
  • Protein milks
Tubular heat exchanger

Regarding the effect of the UHT sterilization heat process and aseptic food processing on the nutritional product quality of the UHT treated milk; UHT milk is a rich source of a number of essential nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, vitamins A and B12, magnesium, carbohydrates, amino acids and protein. Nutrient losses that occur during the production of UHT milk (pasteurisation) are minimal and do not include calcium. Minimal chemical change is the goal.

Sealed products can be stored for months without refrigeration at ambient temperature (although must be chilled once opened).  This is a huge gain over pasteurized fresh milk.

Furthermore, as a result of the continuing supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there remains to be a great deal of pressure from consumers to deliver safe and sustainably packaged products.

Aseptic bottle filling solutions deliver shelf-stable products at lower energy costs for retailers as well as lower shipping costs for manufacturers and prolonged food safety. This is highly beneficial for milk and juice processors in the current climate.

It is also perhaps unsurprising that UHT milk processing is generally more popular in hotter countries where the cost of refrigeration and refrigerated distribution are more significant barriers to the consumption of ‘fresh milk'.

Ultimately, the ultra-high temperature (UHT) process transforms a non-sterile product into a packaged commercially sterile product which is stable at room temperature for several months.

The aseptic packaging step is a crucial one. In this process of packaging, both the product and the package are separately sterilized. To assure absolute purity of the product, it is sealed in a sterile environment. The product must be transferred after cooling to the final package and the package sealed without introducing even one bacterial cell.

In most commercial plants, the product is held in an aseptic tank before it is sent to the aseptic packer.

Various packaging types are available but the most common are paperboard and multi-layered plastic. The packages are sterilised before being filled. Preformed sterile packages and form-fill-seal systems are used primarily for constructing aseptic packaged products.

Processing conditions are independent of container size, allowing for the filling of large containers for food service or sale to further processors for example aseptic fruit purees in stainless steel totes.

Heat treatment process

UHT Milk

In the case of UHT milk for example, where the process can distort the key characteristics of the product; the appearance for example, as well as the colour, taste and smell of dairy products in particular, UHT treated milk can be used as the base for flavoured milk products which masks these issues.

The colour of UHT milk products is affected by milk composition, homogenization pressure, heat treatment, and storage conditions and therefore can vary.

In some instances, the flavour distortion is a result of thermal treatment due to the unfolding of whey proteins. Some enzymes, for example proteases and lipases that are secreted by certain micro-organisms in milk, are more heat resistant. These are not destroyed by some UHT treatments and can also cause changes to the flavour of products.

Ultra High Temperature Process

Before we detail its advantages in terms of milk products for example, let us first delve into what the UHT process is all about.

The UHT or Ultra High Temperature process is an effective modern method of pasteurizing milk. UHT treated milk is nothing but milk processed through ultra-high temperatures. In this process of pasteurization, the milk is heated in a continuous flow system at 135-150 degree Celsius for 1-8 seconds under strict safety and quality parameters before being packed in a sterilised container. This process destroys almost all the harmful bacteria or microorganisms present in the milk.

Growing Popularity of UHT Milk

Recent years have seen a continuous and steep rise in the popularity of UHT treated milk. More people are opting for UHT milk as a raw / fresh milk alternative. It is unsurprising that UHT sterilised milk is generally more popular in hotter countries where the costs of refrigeration are far higher so fresh milk storage is far more costly.

In order to understand the factors that have led to its growing popularity, let us have a look at some of its advantages.

Bovine Milk

UHT Treated Product Advantages

Shelf life is the storage time before quality drops to an unacceptable level. Due to the increasing demand for UHT treated foods by processors all over the world to extend the shelf life of their products, UHT plant equipment has been increasingly popular and highly sought after.

By extending product shelf life, utilizing the UHT pasteurization processes ensures a product can remain on the shelf at the supermarket for longer, ergo wastage and product returns are significantly reduced and highly seasonal products can be stored in bulk.

An extended shelf life allows for more extensive and far-reaching product distribution.  Widening sales market potential by way of extending shelf life, is a highly profitable endeavour accounting for the growing popularity of UHT plants and equipment.

UHT treated products don't require the use of preservatives as there are no microorganisms growing.

Nutritional value - Highly beneficial for your health, UHT milk is loaded with essential nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamins A and B12.

Less processing time equals lower energy costs – UHT processing is complete within seconds, making it a rapid, highly efficient process. As the impurities and harmful bacteria are eliminated, the milk becomes lighter and the time taken to process it further is remarkably reduced ensuring lower energy costs. As a matter of fact, the elimination of harmful enzymes and bacteria means that UHT treated milk can even be consumed directly.

Safer than raw milk – UHT milk is considered “commercially sterile” and is always packaged aseptically which also ensures its safety.

Reduced microbial activity – Kills up to 99.9% of microorganisms (including pathogens) and inactivates spores.

Cheaper and wider variety of packaging options / sizes – There are significant logistical advantages here. By eliminating large glass or plastic containers, empty packages can be stored flat until needed, simplifying storage space and allowing for larger shipments to be transported. The packaging provides space efficiencies, and a variety of sizes and shapes of empty packaging can easily be delivered via semi-trailer for filling.

UHT / Aseptic key points to consider:

  • Less processing time is required.

  • Reduced energy consumption and cost.

  • The process kills microorganisms.

  • UHT extends product shelf life.

  • Product waste minimised.

  • Product returns reduced.

  • Products can be stored in bulk.

  • When the UHT process is coupled with aseptic filling, shelf life can be 6-12 months.

  • Refrigerated storage is not required – storage can be ambient.

  • Storage costs are minimised.

  • Serving a wide range of health benefits, UHT milk is extremely hygienic, delicious, nutritious and free from preservatives. A popular product in the market, UHT milk is easily and readily available everywhere.

Food Science

What is aseptic beverage filling?

In essence aseptic bottle filling is the process of creating an aseptic product and eliminating the risk of contamination throughout the entire bottling process by way of a fully integrated continuous network of machinery encompassing several applications — examples are listed further below. 

Advantages of UHT bottling for fruit juice processors

Fruit-based beverages, such as cartons of kids’ juice and smoothie drinks, are a major application for aseptic packaging.

Processors of fruit juice for example as well as other high-acid beverages like smoothies can utilize the aseptic bottling process to deliver products with longer shelf lives, fewer preservatives and less food waste. However, because juices include valuable compounds such as vitamins, the process of thermally sterilizing these products can be slightly more complex. Too much heat exposure can affect product taste or colour which is where aseptic cold filling and packaging solutions come into play.

UHT / ASEPTIC EQUIPMENT:

Boyd International are globally renowned experts in the purchase and sale of complete UHT / Aseptic processing, filling and bottling plants worldwide.

Next, we will focus on aseptic and UHT drinks and the equipment used to process then bottle or carton the liquid.

Below is an example of a high specification line capable of bottling up to 12,000 litres per hour of aseptic drinks.  It is available for sale so click on the links below for further information or contact us directly.

SPX Homogeniser

Model: G110T-54B.
Gaulin 110T APV Homogeniser.

 75Kw motor.

Capacity up to 6,000 litres / hour +/- 5%.
Year of manufacture: 2015, installed 2016.​
Only 10,000 hours of use.

The homogenization process is used to enhance product characteristics, add value and/or lower costs. What is the use of homogeniser?

Homogenizers function as mixers that reduce particle size or force immiscible liquids to mix. Pressure imparted on a product by the homogenizer is largely determined by pump pressure or flow diversion through valves and nozzles.

Click here for more information on the SPX Homogeniser.

Hot hydrogen peroxide

SPX UHT Steriliser Pasteuriser

Tubular UHT System.

SPX Flow APV Sterilisation.
Tubular Pasteurisation plant.
Flow rate: 6,000 litres / hour.

Temperature Profile:
Sterilisation 42°C - 75°C - 95°C (60 sec) - 137°C - (4 sec) - 21°C
Pasteurisation 42°C - 75°C - 95°C (15 sec) - 21°C
​Only 10,000 hours of use.

Year of manufacture: 2015, installed 2016.

Let's clarify these vital UHT processes:

Pasteurisation is a controlled heating process used to eliminate any dangerous pathogens that may be present in milk, fruit-based beverages, some meat products, and other foods which are commonly subjected to this treatment.

Sterilisation is the removal of living micro-organisms, and can be achieved by moist heat, dry heat, filtration, irradiation, or by chemical methods. Compared to pasteurisation, a heat treatment of over 100°C is applied for a period long enough to lead to a stable product shelf-life.

Click here for more information on the SPX UHT Steriliser Pasteuriser.

SPX Aseptic Tank

Model SST.

Stainless Steel.
30,000 litre capacity.
Manufactured 2015, installed 2016.
Only 10,000 hours of use.

Aseptic tanks are utilized to store liquids, and some viscous products, including dairy, before an aseptic filling is done.

They are intended to adhere to the most rigorous hygienic specifications of the food and beverage industries and are compatible with the cleaning-in-place methods.

Click here for more information on the SPX Aseptic Tank.

Syntegon Bosch Ampack FA 12 fully Automatic Aseptic / UHT Bottle Filling Machine - 12 Lane

Model:  FA 12 – manufactured by Bosch / Syntegon Ampack.

This fully automated filler machine has 12 lines and has had very little use.  Due to the high specification and low hours of use, this machine is a very rare item.

Cost almost 4 million Euro when new in 2015.

Set up for 250ml, 500ml and 1,000ml Aseptic / UHT bottles - currently set up for HDPE (3 or 6 layers) with preparation to retrofit PET bottles.

- Aluminium lids with AROL capper for plastic caps – see below.
- Used currently on UHT fruit juice, protein drink and UHT baby milk.
- Suitable for pieces of fruit up to 3mm diameter and fruit fibres up to 6mm long x 2mm diameter.
- Only 10,000 hours of use.

Current Capacity

- 14,400 bottles / hour at 250ml.
- 12,960 bottles / hour at 500ml.
- 11,520 bottles / hour at 1,000ml.

Aseptic filling technology aims to achieve the best filling speed, accuracy and flexibility while maintaining the sterility of the product and containers throughout the process.

Click here for more information on the Syntegon Bosch Ampack FA 12.

Heuft Squeezer Q.A. Leak Detector

Seal integrity tester.
Fill volume tester.
Quality control built-in.
Manufactured in 2015, installed in 2016.
Only 10,000 hours of use.

Click here for more information on the Heuft Squeezer QA Leak Detector.

AROL Capper for plastic pre-threaded caps

AROL PK WASHABLE – 8 HEAD.
Washable model with stainless steel components for complete washing.
8 head model.
3 change sets – for 1 litre bottles, 0.5 litre bottles and .025 litre bottles.
PD in mm:  360.
With cap infeed system and hopper.

Click here for more information on the AROL Capper.

SPX Steriliser

Carton filling as an alternative to bottle filling

As well as bottling, UHT drinks and aseptic drinks can be filled into cartons.  Cartons come in all shapes and sizes with the main types being SIG COMBIBLOC and TETRA PAK.  

At Boyd International, we have the following aseptic carton filling line available:

SIG Combibloc Aseptic Carton Filling

Comprised of the following machines:

1. CFA 406 – 32 automatic filler
2. Evacuation table
3. Buffer table
4. Cap Applicator – Type: CombiSwift screw cap
5. Tray packer
6. Conveyors

This particular model can do 1 litre, 1.5 litre and 2 litre cartons with the same base format.
Output: 12,000 litres / hour

Click here for more information on the SIG Combibloc Aseptic Carton Filling Line.

For further details of the carton filling equipment we have available, please get in touch.

UHT Processing equipment

INTEGRATING ASEPTIC BOTTLING TECHNOLOGY IN YOUR BUSINESS

Aseptic technology today is the best production system for the beverage industry, but the investment required to install an aseptic technology system can seem significantly high. The cost benefit analysis for aseptic bottling is based upon three factors: the volume of production, the product quality required and the bottle design.

At Boyd International, we are able to provide you with a used but very well maintained integrated bottling system to give you all the benefits that aseptic bottle technology has to offer, at a fraction of the new cost.

Consider the following:

  • Aseptic lines are designed to run 24 hours a day and ensure a high level of efficiency. High output allows the costs to be recompensed over higher production runs.

  • Using aseptic technology for smaller volumes would still be valuable if the quality level required by the market is sufficiently high.

  • At a basic level, aseptic technology provides a very consistent output with the minimum use of chemicals or additives. However, the maximum benefit is obtained in applications where high product quality is critical as it preserves the individual characteristic of the raw materials maintaining their taste, colour and nutritional content ergo product quality is ensured.

  • Bottle design: Filling at room temperature allows for much greater flexibility in bottle design. If producers wish to have complex designs or change designs frequently, then aseptic technology is a distinct advantage.

EVERY BUSINESS CAN IMPROVE ITS PRODUCTIVITY AND PROFITABILITY

If your company is considering expanding production in the foreseeable future, the installation of an aseptic bottling line will maximise your competitiveness in the global market, increase your process efficiency, deliver growth and enhance your current turnover as well as maximise your future profit potential.

Contact the Boyd International team now to discuss your process and how we can help your business.

Poultry Processing