The South African drink, Mageu, receives boost to safety, shelf life and appeal through packaging upgrade.
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The Republic of South Africa stands out among other African countries - not only due to economic power (with the 7th highest per capita income in Africa), but also due to its multiethnic society. Apart from its many cultural diversities, on every kitchen table you can find one similarity. Mageu, Maxau, maHewu, amaRhewu or amaHewu – there are many names of the same traditional non-alcoholic and non-dairy drink made from fermented mealie pap (maize meal). Rich in cultural heritage, it is a base of the every-day diet of 53 million South Africans. RCL Foods, a leading food producer in this region with 1.6 billion EUR revenue in 2015, is the manufacturer of the Number One Mageu brand, a popular version of the traditional drink available in a convenient cardboard carton since 1969.
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Being active on the market for the past 120 years, RCL Foods knows its nation’s eating habits and holds a varied portfolio of well-recognized food brands, including poultry, bakery, dairy and beverages. Believing strongly in the corporate tagline “More food to more people, more often”, the company operates across Africa delivering, among others, the Mageu drink. Keeping in mind the hot climate, severe transportation conditions and the short life span of this unique product, RCL Foods was looking for a packaging solution that would extend the shelf life of the drink, safeguard the product’s quality and provide it with a new refreshed look.
Food safety comes first
The company’s attentions were turned towards Ampack (a part of Bosch Packaging Technology since 2012), a specialist in aseptic machines for liquid food filling with over 40 years of experience in the market. After careful evaluation of the products’ characteristics, Ampack specialists suggested the Mageu drink be filled in high density plastic bottles (HDPE) using aseptic filling ‒ the highest possible hygiene level - allowing for up to one year shelf life outside of the cooling chain (refrigerator). This was a revolutionary concept, as Mageu was only available in cardboard cartons until then, based on the idea of both enhancing product protection, improving end-consumers’ convenience and boosting brand position at point-of-sale. “It was a perfect combination of the highest quality engineering and cutting-edge technology that we were looking for,” explained Johan Niemand, operations executive at Beverages unit at RCL Foods.
The Ampack filling machine, the ultimate choice by RCL Foods, was designed according to the latest hygiene guidelines, ease of use and productivity in mind. Throughout the whole filling process, the packaging material is thoroughly decontaminated and the product is kept in sterile conditions to avoid any loss in quality. In terms of speed, the solution is capable of handling three different bottle sizes (250, 500 milliliters and 1 liter), with format changes taking below 20 minutes and total speeds of up to 14,000 bottles per hour depending on the packaging format. The bottles are made of HDPE material, which has high barriers in order to protect the unique product from deterioration by external factors such as sunlight or oxygen. The new machine was installed in the current production facility in Pretoria in South Africa with the primary aim to fill Mageu drink, but it can handle various products with different levels of viscosity giving RCL Foods the flexibility of extending its production in the future. “Since the installation in June 2016, the machine is running flawlessly and is a perfect example of engineering excellence in its purest form,” added Johan Niemand.
Think locally, support globally
An added value of this project was also the quick and efficient cooperation between both companies, which resulted in Ampack designing and assembling the machine in just 10 months. In order to speed up the acceptance phase at the customer´s site, Ampack performed an additional aseptic test directly in its facility in Königsbrunn (Germany). This way Ampack specialists were sure the machine could be commissioned quickly and would run smoothly for the customer´s full satisfaction. Moreover, during the installation time, RCL Foods operating staff went through extensive training in all areas of machine operation and maintenance. The customer can also rely on the local support of Bosch experts based in Johannesburg, who are available to assist the client if need be. “The service was truly outstanding; it was a seamless cooperation between our teams from day one. Seeing the results, we gained trust both in the technology and Bosch’ diligent service and will definitely discuss more projects in the future,” summarized Johan Niemand.
In the end, RCL Foods received what it was promised – a ground-breaking solution which significantly improves food safety, consumer and retailer experience, as well as its own production site. Moreover, the African market gained a long-awaited alternative for packing its traditional drink in a more hygienic and secure way to meet the future demands of its customer.