Chris Illman, Bickford's Australia

Investing in local processing and production has allowed Bickford’s to improve their global competitiveness.

Even though the Bickford’s Cordial range is one of South Australia’s most recognisable drinks, the company that makes it hasn’t stood still.

In 2019, Bickford’s invested $20 million in a new production line at its Salisbury bottling plant, to keep ahead of its international competitors.

It was the most significant capability upgrade for the family-owned business in almost three decades, and saw it become the first beverage manufacturer in Australia to introduce “aseptic filling” technology.

Aseptic filling allows bottling to take place in a closed system, from the point of batching to capping.

Flexible production line improving efficiency and product range

This means that the filling process is a completely sterile environment, guaranteeing that the liquid and packaging is free from any potential contaminants.

“As an independently-owned South Australian beverage business, we compete against the biggest drinks brands in the world,” said Chris Illman, Bickford’s Group Head of Sales and Marketing.

“We introduced the new production line to enable us to tap into the growing global health and wellness boom that is driving the growth of beverage categories,” he said.

Bickford’s has been producing beverages since 1874. Its portfolio currently includes its flagship cordial, as well as a range of functional juices, premium mixers, purified waters, and Bickford’s original and distinctive Iced Coffee syrup.

The new, flexible production line is capable of handling both still and carbonated beverages as well as low and high acid aseptic products.

“We installed a complete PET line featuring one blow/fill system for aseptically filled beverages and a second blow/fill system for either non-aseptic still beverages or carbonated soft drinks,” said Chris.

“Aseptic filling enables us to fill liquids at a lower temperature than current hot-fill processes, ensuring that the flavour and colour integrity of the ingredients is optimised, and allows us to fill preservative-free products.”

The new production line has meant Bickford’s has been able to improve the taste, efficiency and range of products on offer.

Significant increase in capacity

“The introduction of the new line with aseptic filling technology has meant that we’ve not only been able to improve the taste of our beverages, but also significantly increase our capacity,” he said.

“We are now able to fill 13,500 bottles per hour and have the ability to produce dairy and non-dairy products”.

“We have extended the Bickford’s brand into the pre-mixed Iced Coffee Dairy Milk and Almond Milk with and Iced Coffee and Chocolate drinks and revitalised our 100 year old Bickford’s Iced Coffee Syrup to be preservative free.”