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Article by Nampak 10 September 2012

Elopak and Pure-Lac grow Spar milk brands

Elopak liquid cartons and Pure-Lac technology helped grow Spar’s private label ESL milk brand by a whopping
1 654% in a matter of seven years!

The retailer, which pioneered the launch of ESL milk in South Africa, increased volumes from 1 782 000 litres in 2005 to 31 271 000 litres in 2011. Speaking at the SA Society of Dairy Technology’s Annual Symposium in Durban during April, Spar Brand Manager “Title”, Judith Gale, said that the move was regarded as very high risk at the time. “We were aware of inferior ESL products and we needed to make sure that we achieved the extended shelf life promise of 45 days, as well as the flavour of fresh milk. It took huge courage to leave the comfort of conformity and change the way South African consumers see milk – forever! Elopak and Pure-Lac were amazing partners, and our performance over the intervening period clearly demonstrates the popularity of ESL milk in the domestic market.”

Johan De Smidt, the Managing Director of Elopak South Africa, added that the launch of ESL requires knowledge and control of all the critical steps in the product value chain, namely processing, filling and packaging.

He explained that Pure-Lac is a processing scheme that enables highly accurate temperature targeting of particular aerobic spores, which can spoil milk and are especially problematic when there are breaks in the chill chain. The Pure-Lac idea is a partnership between processing equipment specialist APV and packaging and filling company Elopak. APV supplies the processing hardware and software, while Elopak supplies clean, ultraclean and aseptic filling systems and Pure-Pak packaging.

“Packaging plays a key role in terms of ESL quality and shelf life, where issues include microbiology and product protection, specifically in terms of light and oxygen barriers. High quality Elopak liquid cartons are particularly effective in this regard. FDA and ISO-certified, they are manufactured from the finest-grade raw board materials. A global network of converting plants offers the latest printing technology and superior skiving capabilities.”

De Smidt cited many reasons why ESL is important to the dairy industry. They include the ability to generate new revenue streams and enhance profitability through a competitive retail strategy, covering line extensions and new products, like flavoured milks, juice/dairy mixes and cereal drinks, as well as better pricing, higher margins and less returns/write-offs.

At the same time, ESL provides cost effective logistics, enabling greater geographical reach and mitigating the risk of unpredictable milk supply. It also improves operational performance by increasing flexibility, lengthening production runs and facilitating centralisation/consolidation. This is particularly important for nationwide retailers, like Spar, with a large urban, peri-urban and rural footprint. Similarly, it gives consumers in less remote places the opportunity to access the health benefits of fresh milk, while affording retailers a unique competitive advantage in a fairly cluttered space.

ESL has a higher hygiene quality compared to fresh milk and consumers like the taste profile compared to UHT.

For these reasons, ESL has gained volumes over the last two decades and continues to do so. “Through our Spar experience, we have considerable ESL know-how and we look forward to sharing it with more dairies and retailers in the future,” ended De Smidt.
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