TETRA PACK FOOD
Tetra Pak is a multinational food packaging and processing company of Swedish origin with head offices in Lund, Sweden, and Lausanne, Switzerland. The company offers packaging, filling machines and processing for dairy, beverages, cheese, ice-cream and prepared food, including distribution tools like accumulators, cap applicators, conveyors, crate packers, film wrappers, line controllers and straw applicators.
Tetra Pak was founded by Ruben Rausing and built on Erik Wallenberg’s innovation, a tetrahedron-shaped plastic-coated paper carton, from which the company name was derived. In the 1960s and 1970s, the development of the Tetra Brik package and the aseptic packaging technology made possible a cold chain supply, substantially facilitating distribution and storage. From the beginning of the 1950s to the mid-1990s, the company was headed by the two sons of Ruben Rausing, Hans and Gad, who took the company from a family business of six employees, in 1954, to a multinational corporation. Tetra Pak is currently the largest food packaging company in the world by sales, operating in more than 170 countries and with over 23,000 employees (2012). The company is privately owned by the family of Gad Rausing through the Swiss-based holding company Tetra Laval, which also includes the dairy farming equipment producer DeLaval and the PET bottle manufacturer Sidel. In November 2011, the Tetra Brik carton package was represented at the exhibition Hidden Heroes – The Genius of Everyday Things at the London Science Museum/Vitra Design Museum, celebrating “the miniature marvels we couldn’t live without”.The aseptic packaging technology has been called the most important food packaging innovation of the 20th Century by the Institute of Food Technologists and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences called the Tetra Pak packaging system one of Sweden’s most successful inventions of all time.
Tetra Pak was created in 1951 as a subsidiary to Åkerlund & Rausing, a food carton company established in Malmö in 1929 by Ruben Rausing and Erik Åkerlund. Rausing, who had studied in New York at the beginning of the 1920s, had seen self-service grocery stores in the United States, which was unheard of in Europe at the time, and realised that pre-packaging was part of the future in food retailing as a more hygienic and practical way of distributing staple groceries. At the time, these were sold over the counter in cumbersome glass bottles or impractical paper wraps in most European countries. At the end of the 1920s, Rausing bought a run-down packaging factory in Malmö together with the industrialist Erik Åkerlund. Åkerlund & Rausing was the first packaging company in Scandinavia and eventually became a leading manufacturer of dry food cartons. Initially, however, Åkerlund & Rausing had difficulties making profits and in 1933 Åkerlund sold his share to Rausing, who became the sole owner.
Åkerlund & Rausing produced all sorts of paper packaging for dry staple groceries, but Rausing was determined to find a way to pre-package liquids like milk and cream, and spent large sums on developing a viable package. The goal was to provide optimal food safety, hygiene and distribution efficiency using a minimum amount of material, according to the subsequently famous credo that a package should “save more than it costs”.The new package had to be sufficiently cheap to be able to compete with loose milk, meaning that a minimum of material waste and a maximum of production efficiency needed to be obtained.
In 1943, the Åkerlund & Rausing lab started to work on developing the milk carton, and, in 1944, came up with the idea of constructing a tetrahedron-shaped package out of a tube of paper. The idea was simple but efficient, making optimal use of the material involved. After some initial hesitation, Rausing understood the potential of the package and filed for a patent on 27 March 1944. The rest of the 1940s were spent developing viable packaging materials and solving the technical problems of filling, sealing, and distribution.
It was reportedly Rausing’s wife Elisabeth who came up with the idea of continuously sealing the packages through the milk while filling the tube in the manner of stuffing sausages, to prevent oxygen from entering the package. In 1946, a model for a packaging machine was presented by engineer Harry Järund, and in collaboration with Swedish paper mills and foreign chemical companies a viable paper for packaging was finally produced when coating carton paper with polyethylene, which made the paper waterproof and allowing for heat-sealing during filling.
AB Tetra Pak was established in Lund, Sweden, in 1951. In May of that year, the new packaging system was presented to the press, and in 1952, the first filling machine producing 100 ml cream tetrahedrons was delivered to Lundaortens Mejeriförening, a local dairy. In the subsequent years, the tetrahedron packages became more and more frequent in Swedish grocery stores, and in 1954, the first machine producing 500 ml milk packages was sold to a Stockholm dairy. That same year the first machine was exported to Hamburg, Germany, soon to be followed by France (1954), Italy (1956), Switzerland (1957) and later the Soviet Union (1959) and Japan (1962). Rausing relentlessly strove to improve the Tetra Classic system, wrought with many technical problems during the 1950s, and spent enormous amounts on development. The different projects – the tetrahedron, the aseptic packaging technology, Tetra Brik – all demanded extremely large resources and the company had financial troubles well into the 1960s. Indeed, Tetra Pak’s commercial breakthrough did not arrive until the mid-1960s with the new Tetra Brik package, introduced in 1963, and the development of the Aseptic technology. To liberate capital, Åkerlund & Rausing was sold in 1965 while AB Tetra Pak was retained.
International expansion had begun by the beginning of the 1960s, when the first production plant outside of Sweden was established in Mexico in 1960, soon to be followed by another in the United States in 1962. In 1962, the first Tetra Classic Aseptic machine outside of Europe was installed in Lebanon. The late 1960s and 1970s saw a global expansion of the company, much due to the new Tetra Brik Aseptic package, launched in 1969, which opened up new markets in the developing world and sparked off a virtual explosion in sales.
The aseptic packaging technology is Tetra Pak’s key innovation and paved the way for Tetra Pak’s success. In aseptic processing the product and the package are sterilized separately and then combined and sealed in a sterile atmosphere, in contrast to canning, where product and package are first combined and then sterilized. When filled with ultra-heat treated (UHT) foodstuffs (liquids like milk and juice or processed food like vegetables and preserved fruits), the aseptic packages can be preserved without being chilled for up to one year, with the result that distribution and storage costs, as well as environmental impact, is greatly reduced and product shelf life expanded.
Tetra Classic is the name of the first, tetrahedral package, launched by Tetra Pak in 1952, with an aseptic version released in 1961 and still in use, mainly for portion-sized cream packages and children’s juices.
The Tetra Brik, a package in the shape of a rectangular cuboid, was launched in 1963 after a long and costly development process. An aseptic version, Tetra Brik Aseptic was launched in 1969. In terms of entities sold, it is the most popular of the Tetra Pak packages.
The pillow-shaped Tetra Fino Aseptic was introduced in 1997, aiming to provide low cost and simplicity.
Tetra Gemina Aseptic was introduced in 2007 as the “world’s first roll-fed gable top package with full aseptic performance”.
The Tetra Prisma Aseptic was launched in 1996. It has an octagonal shape with the aim of providing a more ergonomic experience.
The Tetra Rex is a cuboid shaped package with a gable-top. It was launched in Sweden in 1966.
Tetra Recart is a newly launched package shaped as a rectangular cuboid that is meant to provide an alternative to previously canned foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruit and pet food.
Tetra Top was launched in 1986 as a re-closable, rounded cuboid package with a plastic upper part, including opening and closure elements. The lid, moulded in polyethylene in a single mold, makes it easy to open and reclose.
Tetra Wedge Aseptic was developed to keep packaging material to a minimum while retaining a square surface underneath. It was introduced in 1997.
The Tetra Evero Aseptic is the latest of the Tetra Pak packages, launched in 2011 and marketed as the world’s first aseptic carton bottle for ambient milk.
PROCESSING AND DISTRIBUTION
While the original idea was to provide hygienic pre-packaging for liquid food stuffs, Tetra Pak is now providing a range of different packaging and processing products and services due to its acquisition of Alfa Laval in 1991, consequently supplying complete systems of processing, packaging and distribution within fields as various as ice cream, cheese, fruit and vegetables and pet food. In addition to its various packaging products, Tetra Pak thus provides integrated processing and distribution lines for different kinds of food manufacturing, including packaging machines and carton paper, equally providing distribution equipment like conveyors, tray packers, film wrappers, crates, straws and roll containers. The company additionally offers automated production equipment and technical service.