Contract packing carbonated beverages

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

January 30, 2014

9 Min Read
Contract packing carbonated beverages

Black Bear Bottling Group LLC, Oak Creek, WI, specializes in contract packing carbonated b288975-Jelly_Belly_bottle_JPG.JPG

Jelly Belly bottle.JPG

everages. The plant has a glass line running 6.3 oz to 1 qt bottles, a plastic line running 10 oz to 3L and a B-I-B operation. Customers include Wit Beverage Co., Goose Island sodas and Deerfield Traders, which produces products for Walgreens. An interesting element of Black Bear is that almost of all of its equipment is bought used. "Contract packaging of carbonated beverages is a very cost-sensitive business, so it makes sense for us to buy used equipment when it meets our needs and is available," says Black Bear president and co-owner Peter Caruso.

"The key is to find 288967-labeler_jpg.jpg


a source for the used equipment that you can trust and that has the knowledge and resources to find the equipment you need," he adds. "For us, that source has been Howard Buckner at SMB Machinery Systems. Almost all of the equipment I have in my plant has come from Howard. I tell him what I need and he finds it for me."

SMB has a 120,000 sq-ft facility outside of Atlanta, GA, where it maintains an inventory of used equipment, but if it doesn't have the required item in inventory, it will conduct a search. SMB rebuilds equipment as required, although this isn't always necessary, says Caruso. "The equipment Howard finds us is generally in excellent condition," he says. SMB also has electrical and controls divisions that did work for Black Bear. They built new UL-approved control cabinets and designed line controls so that upstream equipment will shut down automatically if bottles back up on the conveyors, and an operator can start all of the equipment on the line from a single cabinet. Most of the equipment at Black Bear uses Rockwell Automation controls. Black Bear Equipment in the plant was installed by Pieper Electric.

Running Jelly Belly blueberry drink

During PD's visit, Black Bear was running Jelly Belly blueberry gourmet soda in 12-oz glass bottles at a speed of 200 bottles/min for Wit Beverage Co. (WBC). "Black Bear has been running products for us for the past five years, and we have been very satisfied," says Paul Kassis, co-founder of WBC. "Quality is a major requirement for us in selecting a contract packer, and Black Bear has done a great job. Their SQF certification is a big factor because it assures that the highest levels of quality are being achieved and certified by an independent third party. Relationships are also very important to us, and Pete Caruso has been outstanding to work with. Black Bear has done an excellent job of accommodating our requirements."

Black Bear receives all of288976-filler_capper2_jpg.jpg


its bottles, which are supplied by Anchor Glass Container Corp. and O-I, in bulk stacked pallets. Thus, the first step in the glass packaging line is a bottle depalletizer. In this operation, the bottles are swept off onto a bulk take-away conveyor on the top level and are conveyed by an Ambec lowerator conveyor from FleetwoodGoldcoWyard to the main floor level. 

Monobloc filler/capper

The bottles travel to a bottle rinser that picks up the individual bottles with rubber grippers, inverts them for a water rinse and then sets them back upright on the outlet conveyor. The bottles then enter a separate room where a monobloc unit with 40 filling heads and 10 screw capping heads fills and caps them. (The depalletizer, rinser and filler/capper were built by companies that are no longer in business, so those manufacturer's names are not included.) Bottles are metered onto the pressure filler by a star wheel that places them onto individual spring-loaded bottle pedestals. 

As the machine rotates, each pedestal raises the bottle up against a seal on the bottom of the gravity-fill valve. As the pedestal lifts the bottle, it pushes open a valve and filling commences. The filling cycle is set so that the product reaches the bottom of the valve sleeve as the filler rotation brings the bottle near the machine-discharge starwheel. The bottle pedestal descends, allowing the fill valve to close, and the bottles travel into the discharge starwheel.
The bottles then enter the capper starwheel and are delivered to the rotating capper. Caps travel down a chute from the hopper and are placed on the bottles, after which chucks tighten the caps as the capper rotates. When the magnetic clutch reaches the set torque, it slips and the chuck system disengages. Black Bear also has a capper for crown caps that it uses when running those products.


Black Bear has a newer, faster monobloc 40 fill head, eight capping head unit on order to upgrade its operation.
Monobloc filler/capper

The bottles are filled at 38 deg F, so after leaving the filling/capping room, they enter a bulk heating tunnel where hot water warms them to about 65 deg F to eliminate any condensation on the bottles that would affect the labeling operation.


12-head labeler

The bottles are then single filed and enter a Kosme model Top II AD 12-head labeler from Krones Inc. that applies p-s labels, which are supplied by Orion Labels LLC. The labeler is the only new piece of equipment on the line. The unit is equipped with two labeling stations that can 288983-case_packer_jpg.jpg

case packer.jpg

apply individual front and back labels or wrap-around labels. At each station, a roll of labels is mounted horizontally and the web is pulled through a series of rollers to a point where the label is applied to the bottle. 

A feedscrew meters the bottles into the labeler's infeed starwheel, which, transfers the containers to individual plates on the continuously revolving bottle table. As the bottle table rotates, the bottle plates also rotate until the bottle is properly situated to receive the first label. After this is applied, the bottle plates continue to rotate so the bottle is positioned to receive the second label exactly opposite the first label. The labeled containers then travel through a discharge starwheel onto the discharge conveyor.

As the bottles leave the labeler, an Excel inkjet printer from Videojet Technologies Inc. prints date and lot codes on their shoulders. The bottles are then conveyed to a Hartness Intl Inc. Model 825 case packer. Black Bear packs the bottles into four- or six-pack carriers, and the carriers and shipping cases are erected ahead of the Hartness unit by a machine from SWF Companies. This erector incorporates a Melton hot melt unit from Valco Melton that applies glue to the flaps. Glue is supplied by Henkel Corp. Black Bear has two of these units to keep up with production.
During PD's visit, Black Bear was packing the Jelly Belly bottles into four-pack carriers. The carriers are conveyed from the SWF machines to a packer from Pearson Packaging Systems that places six carriers into a case (four six-pack carriers into a case when the plant is running those). Black Bear also runs trays on this line so it has a Padlocker (now part of SWF) tray former that it uses when it is putting bottles onto trays.

The cases containing the carriers are conveyed to the Hartness case packer, where they enter on a low-level conveyor. Bottles enter the machine single file on top and then are separated into four lanes for loading. When the correct number of bottles have accumulated, the empty case is lifted and the bottles drop into the case. A Marsh inkjet unit from Videojet prints the product flavor on the sides of the cases as they exit the packer. The cases are then conveyed through a SWF top gluer equipped with a Melton hot melt unit.

The cases travel past a Label-Aire Inc. print and apply unit that is equipped with a Sato America Inc. printer. The printer prints a p-s label and an arm swings out and applies it to the shipping case. The line is also equipped with an Arpac Group shrink wrapper that is used when it is running trays. The cases are conveyed to a VonGal Corp. palletizer, and Black Bear has a Lantech stretch wrapper on order.

"I do business on the basis of relationships," says Caruso. "Our suppliers are great, which takes a lot of the pressure off of our operations.



Black Bear Bottling Group achieves Safe Quality Food (SQF) Level 2000 certification
Black Bear Bottling Group LLC has become certified under the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Level 2000 food safety standard that specifies the quality management system requirements necessary to identify food safety and quality risks as well as validate and monitor the control measures. The SQF Institute is a division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which was established to manage the SQF food safety and quality certification program. The SQF Program is an internationally recognized comprehensive food safety and quality management system to cover the entire food chain. The program is made up of two codes (standards), the SQF 1000 Code for the primary production sector and the SQF 2000 Code for the food manufacturing and service sectors. The SQF 2000 Quality Code is a HACCP-based food safety and quality risk management system covering all food chain stakeholders. It covers the identification of food safety and quality risks, and the validation and monitoring of control measures. These international standards are designed to be used by any business in the food supply chain operating in domestic or global markets, from primary producers to manufacturers, and those who offer services to the food industry.



Anchor Glass Container Corp,
Arpac Group, 847/678-9034.
Hartness Intl Inc.,
Henkel Corp., 866/443-6535.
Krones Inc., 414/409-4000.
Label-Aire, Inc., 714/441-0700.
Lantech, 800/866-0322.
O-I, 567/336-5000.
Orion Labels LLC,

Pearson Packaging Systems,


Pieper Electric, 414/462-7700.
Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000.
Sato America Inc., 704/644-1650.
SMB Machinery Systems LLC,
Valco Melton, 513/874-6550.
SWF Cos., 559/638-8484.
Videojet Technologies Inc.,
VonGal Corp., 334/261-2700.



About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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