Bottled Water Production
With a greater awareness of the effects of caffeine, sugars and artificial ingredients on our health, the popularity of bottled water is on the up. It is increasingly being accepted that a bottle of water is a refreshing, calorie free option when it comes to rehydrating.
Drinking water has been cited as the best means of maintaining youthful skin, clearing toxins from the body and quenching thirst during physical activity. It should also be noted that in crisis situations, bottled water is often the only means of providing people with a clean, unpolluted drink.
As attitudes change, the demand for bottled water grows. According to data produced by the International Bottled Water Association and Beverage Marketing Group, 2015 saw an 8.9% increase in global purchase and consumption of water.
In the UK, figures produced by Zenith International suggest that we consumed 44 litres per person in 2015. This is greater than our consumption of fruit juices and wine, although still falls short of beer and the nations favourite, tea. In the UK still water accounted for 85% of purchases and sparkling water for 15% in 2015. The expectation is that demand will continue to rise, with predictions of 63 litres per person being drunk in 2020.
Where Does the Water Come From?
We have heard warnings of water shortages and a finite supply of fresh water, so where is all the water coming from? Bottled waters are classified as Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water or Table Water and all must comply with the stringent European Parliament Directives and Water Regulations. They are monitored by the Food Standards Agency.
Natural Mineral Water
These must come from an identified and natural source, where the composition is stable and naturally wholesome and pollutant free. The source of the water is protected and no treatment or additions are applied to the water in order for it to be fit for consumption. The exception is the addition of carbon dioxide for sparkling water.
Spring Water must originate from an underground source and be bottled at source, although changes to the natural composition can be made, such as the removal of certain minerals. Again, the source of water must be naturally filtered and pollutant free.
Although filtered, table water is typically tap water. It is categorised within ‘other waters’, which include flavoured waters which may containing flavourings, sweeteners and other additives.
In 2010, Quantis undertook a beverage lifecycle assessment and the results showed that bottled water had the lowest water and energy footprint of any packaged beverage. Since them more investment in packaging has resulted in lighter bottles containing a high percentage of recycled materials, although progress in this area continues.
One reason that energy costs are low is because the bottled waters on sale in the UK are sourced in Britain. This means that our purchases support UK business and huge transport cost and the resulting environmental impact are minimised.
Across the beverage industry, flow monitoring devices have been widely adopted in order to minimise waste, optimise process management and to support sustainability measures. Devices such as ultrasonic flow meters can be retrospectively clamped on to existing pipework to monitor flow rates. As such ultrasonic flow meters can be installed without the need for downtime.
Ultrasonic flow meters are calibrated for the liquid in the process and allow for early identification of issues in the process. The data they produce can also provide evidence to show the impact of water management measures. They are just one tool being used to increase efficiency in the production of bottled waters.
Efficient Processes at Morpeth
Morpeth Manufacturing, the company that source water from a natural underground spring for Schweppes Abbey Well and Glaceau SmartWater, has recently invested £14million in fully automating the processing and bottling line. Like many other manufacturers they have recognised the potential of digital technology.
The complete remodelling of the process and implementation of the new technology has taken part onsite, whilst full operations continue. The result is a factory that can bottle 56,000 bottles per hour, which is over three times the volume that was previously possible. Yet despite the high volume of water being extracted from the natural spring, it continues to provide a reliable supply of the raw ingredient.