Romanians drink beer from PET containers as a matter of course. And this applies primarily for relatively large bottle volumes. For about two years now, however, there has been a trend among consumers towards smaller-size containers, which is why the Romaqua Group Borsec has meanwhile commissioned a second PET line from Krones, so as to be able to fill the 2.5-litre and the 0.5-litre bottles separately in the future.
Romaqua has two strong earners in Romania: firstly, the group is the country’s biggest mineral water producer, accounting for about 30 per cent, and secondly, it’s its most prestigious privately owned brewing company, the fourth-largest in Romania. The enterprise is 100 per cent in Romanian ownership, and operates six facilities in the country:
- Three plants for filling water
- One factory filling water and fruit juices
- One manufacturing facility for PET preforms and labels
- One brewery
All in all, 17 lines with an installed capacity of more than one billion fills a year are up and running in these facilities – every one of them either completely equipped with Krones kit or containing at least a majority of its machines: Romaqua has been a loyal Krones fan right from the start.
Romaqua built its one-million-hectolitre brewery in the town of Sebes on a greenfield site in 2008 – with Krones as the general contractor. Only nine short months elapsed between the beginning of construction work and final commissioning. Back then, the brewery was among the world’s most modern, featuring the very latest state of the art. In addition to the six-kettle brewhouse from Steinecker, Krones also installed a 18,000-cph PET line and a 20,000-cph canning line. Pursuing its commitment to Total Quality Management and out of its respect for its consumers, Romaqua was the first company in Romania to cover the beverage cans with pre-cut foils, which serve as a hygienic seal. A Taxomatic labeller takes care of this. It was only three years later that a glass line was added, which with an hourly output of 30,000 bottles is to this very day the entire group’s fastest line.
In late 2017, Romaqua commissioned what was meanwhile its fourth Krones line, this one again for PET containers and rated at 12,000 bottles per hour. It includes, for example:
- Contiform Bloc comprising a Contiform 3 Pro blow-moulder and a Modulfill HRS counterpressure filler
- Contiroll wrap-around labeller with Checkmat inspector
- Variopac Pro FS-6 non-returnables packer
- Modulpal 2AC palletiser
That investment was Romaqua’s response to the growing demand for smaller PET containers. It was in 2017 that the brewery for the first time filled more 0.5-litre bottles than 2.5-litre ones, which had up till then proved so popular. Thanks to the new line, the brewery is now in a position to fill the 1.0-litre, 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre containers on one line, and the 0.5-litre size on the other.
Fig.: The 90 per cent of beer output filled in PET when the brewery was started up have decreased to what are now 75 per cent, with glass bottles and cans meanwhile accounting for 10 and 15 per cent respectively of total sales.
There isn’t really a pronounced beer culture in Romania. Beer is drunk mainly at home, something reflected not least in the very low proportion of beer sold in kegs, currently running at five per cent. It was this at-home consumption that was probably the reason for the downright boom in large-size PET containers. “But a generational change is currently taking place among consumers in Romania,” says Ioan Păun, the Director General of the Sebes Division. “Disposable incomes are rising, consumers are now in the market not so much for quantity as for a higher level of quality.”
Emphasising quality: cold-filtered
“Beer in PET, that must be cheap mass-produced stuff,” you would think – but far from it. Because quality is the paramount priority at Romaqua. All of its three beer brands are not flash-pasteurised, not powder-filtered, nor are they stabilised with PVPP. No, they are unpasteurised and cold-filtered. For this purpose, the brewery right from the start invested in a combination of membrane filtration and centrifuge for its cellar, and also in a micro-filtration unit upstream of the filler. “It’s the brightest beer on the Romanian market,” says a proud Ovidiu Petrenciu, the brewery’s director. “You won’t find any kieselguhr residues whatsoever, nor do we recover beer from the yeast.”
And the brewery takes great pains to ensure top-notch quality for its PET filling operation as well. Firstly, the cold-stored beer is also cold-filled, at about eight degrees Celsius. Secondly, the PET material’s barrier system, plus an additional sleeve pulled over the screw-cap, combine to prevent not only the loss of carbonation, but also oxygen penetrating into the product. The result: the beers stay fresh for longer and boast a shelf-life of five months. “And the filling technology of the Modulfill HRS also plays its part in achieving top levels of quality,” explains Bogdan Oprea, who heads the filling operations. Despite all the capital expended by the brewery, beer is affordable in Romania. At the retailers, consumers can buy a litre of beer filled in the larger PET containers at a price of about 80 eurocents. This applies to almost all the products on the market, and is primarily attributable to a highly saturated beer market.
German names for their beers
The three beer brands produced by the Romaqua Brewery are Albacher, Dorfer and Mühlbacher. But how is it that Romanian beers are given German names? The town of Sebes is situated in the region of Transylvania, which had over the centuries been connected with Germany and Austria in many different ways. To this very day, some of its populace speak not only Romanian but German as well. And Germany here is synonymous with top-quality beer. Albacher is borrowed from the name of the nearby town of Alba Iulia (in German: Karlsburg), and Mühlbach is quite simply the German for Sebes.
Long-standing, good cooperation
With the installation of its new line, Romaqua has put in place sufficient filling capacities. “What’s now needed is higher levels of flexibility, especially in the brewery’s cold section,” says Ioan Păun. The fact that almost all lines and machines installed at the Romaqua Group bear the Krones logo, he continues, in his view enables the company “to exchange spares quite simply between individual lines and even between facilities”. And machine operators, too, can be delegated to other plants at need, since they are all familiar with Krones’ technology. “We’ve been enjoying a long-standing, good relationship with Krones,” emphasises the Director General of the Sebes Division. “Cooperation started 20 years ago when the first complete PET line from Krones was installed in Borsec. The machines and lines are of excellent quality. What’s also a major advantage is that Krones has a service team here in Romania made up of local staff. That makes a whole lot of things a whole lot easier.”
It was only ten years ago that the decision was taken to include beer in the group’s beverage portfolio. And that has certainly paid off for Romaqua. Its share in the country’s beer market has increased from 3.6 per cent in the year the brewery was founded to what is now ten per cent – also and especially thanks to beer in PET.
Market leader for mineral water
The Romaqua Group Borsec was set up in 1998, and is currently achieving sales of around 154 million euros with a payroll of over 2,000. Romaqua is the largest purely Romanian beverage conglomerate, and in 2017 produced more than 660 million litres of beverages, of which water alone accounted for about 530 million litres. Its six facilities are located in Borsec (two plants), Bucarest, Busteni, Sebes and Stanceni.