New heights for bottled water

Tuesday, 28 July, 2020 | Supplied by: KHS Pacific Pty Ltd

At over 5000 m above sea level, Margherita Peak in the Rwenzori Mountains in north-western Uganda is Africa’s third-highest mountain. It is therefore not surprising that one of Uganda’s mineral water brands was named Rwenzori and depicts the mountain range on its logo.

When the Rwenzori Bottling Company began operations in 1993, it faced the challenge that bottled water was still a relatively new and unknown product to many people in Africa. This has changed a lot since then: the sale of bottled water has literally skyrocketed throughout Uganda.

In 2014 the Rwenzori Bottling Company was acquired by Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), which operates in South and East Africa. Part of the new strategy is to locally integrate well-known mineral water brands into their own group in order to develop them further.

Rwenzori also has plans for further growth of its water brand, which already has gained an approximately 65% share of the Ugandan market. However, there’s no more space available for a new production line at the main plant where three smaller bottling lines are in operation. Instead, operations are to be expanded on the site belonging to CCBA subsidiary Century Bottling Company just a few hundred metres away. The group is investing a total of US$10 million — about two-thirds of Uganda’s planned budget for 2018.

Packaging technology

KHS was awarded the contract for the new PET line. In addition to an Innoket Neo labeller, the package includes an InnoPET BloFill stretch blow moulder/filler block with a capacity of up to 25,000 500-millilitre bottles per hour. “This is the second water bottling line that CCBA will be receiving from us within a very short space of time,” said Denise Schneider-Walimohamed, Managing Director of KHS East Africa. “Last year we installed an almost identical line at Voltic in Ghana. Until now many customers in the region have actually associated KHS with higher-capacity machines outputting up to 80,000 bottles per hour. With these two projects we’ve been able to prove that KHS also offers excellent water bottling systems in the low-capacity range.” All capacity levels are now in demand in Africa and most water bottling systems are sold in the KHS Middle East/Africa Market Zone managed by Executive Vice-President Markus Auinger.

The company was particularly impressed by the Innofill PET NV water filler — the first machine designed for still water that Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda has acquired so far. The Dortmund systems supplier has chalked up points with other projects KHS has also implemented for CCBA in Uganda including a PET line for carbonated Coca-Cola soft drinks installed in Mbarara in 2015. “Our experience with KHS has been very good. We know that we can rely on short delivery times, fast installation and commissioning, and the expert support and flexibility of the KHS team,” explained Edward Ojede, Project Manager at CCBA in Uganda.

Expertise in bottles

Particularly noteworthy is the support provided by the KHS experts in the company’s Bottles & Shapes program who contribute their expertise in the development and optimisation of bottles. Their consultancy service produces PET bottles which have been optimised in terms of both ecology and economy and boast 100% line suitability and compliance with the customer’s design concepts.

Although the line was officially commissioned in May 2019 by the President of Uganda, represented by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, production has been running since the beginning of the year — and very smoothly at that. The performance figures of the new system have even exceeded CCBA’s high expectations. “We’re achieving a line efficiency of 98%,” said Conrad van Niekerk, Managing Director of CCBA Uganda. “And Rwenzori’s water bottling line operates around the clock, seven days a week. The performance figures of this line and those from Mbarara are the best in the entire group.”

Even though the expanded capacity is already reaching its limits, the key factor in CCBA’s output is the availability of water, which is a limited and therefore precious resource in Uganda.

Image source: KHS Group

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