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Non-stop logistics.

We all know the shiny silvery pouches with colorful print, into which users can skillfully poke an drinking straw. We have all tried at one time or another to noisily slurp the very last drop from the pouch. But just why is Capri-Sun so well-known around the world? Year after year they sell almost as many of these pouches as there are people on this planet: six billion of them. People quench their thirst with the 200 milliliter pouches in more than 100 countries worldwide. Their origin lies in Eppelheim, near Heidelberg, where they not only produce the beverages with flavors ranging from orange to “monster alarm”; they also manufacture the packaging. To this day Capri-Sun is the only beverage brand that has developed both the filling process and the packaging in-house.

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The European market is supplied directly from Eppelheim. Overseas licensees also receive the raw materials for the production of the delicious drink from here. “We distribute to more than 100 countries around the world. That can only work if everyone works hand in glove,” says Harald Rohatsch, Director Logistics at Capri-Sun. This logistical masterpiece starts out back in the production halls in Eppelheim. The pouches go through a filling station that takes up just a few meters. An operator loads the pouches into the machine, and the machine opens them and fills them with 82 degrees Celsius hot Capri-Sun. Less then two meters further along, the pouches are already hermetically sealed and chilled in a water basin.

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Next, the familiar drinking straws are attached to the small pouches – the large ones are fitted with a screw cap – before they are packaged, again in a fully automated process. Through a tunnel, the beverages leave the production building and enter the logistics hall. Here, yellow gripping arms are busy playing Tetris: with great precision, they position the cardboard boxes on a con­veyor belt, which in turn loads a pallet – again, in a fully automated process. But then there is a break in the automated sequence.

“Our trucks are loaded using forklift trucks operated by our employees,” explains Rohatsch. “They can do the job more quickly than any machine. It takes us an average of a quarter of an hour. The fastest automated loading system that has been demonstrated to us to date took 30 minutes.” Rohatsch knows the strengths of this logistics operation. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in setting up a warehouse operation from the ground up. For me this is a dream come true.”

The warehouse, which was commissioned in 2015, is a model project. Highly complex and also digitally absolutely state of the art. “In food production, the annual IFS certification is the measure of all things. Certification was obtained swiftly, soon after the warehouse first opened, and the logistics passed with flying colors,” Rohatsch says proudly.

It is a demonstration of the standard to which Capri-Sun holds itself, as well its partners. 

Once the pouches have been loaded into the truck, the logistics services provider EMO-TRANS takes over. “Food transport runs are always subject to very special conditions. In this respect we need to be 100-percent reliable in our performance,” says Nicole Ahrensfeld, Key Account Manager for temperature-sensitive transportation at EMO-TRANS. “When things have to go fast, airfreight comes into play.” In the case of Capri-Sun, this applies especially with regard to bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials, or when there are special editions and marketing campaigns.

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“Some very typical destinations for Capri-Sun are Dubai, Korea and China. This is where the high-frequency network of Lufthansa Cargo makes for the perfect fit,” says Harald Rohatsch. “But we are continuing to expand into new markets and we want to conquer even more of the world out there. In this respect we benefit from the fact that Lufthansa Cargo also flies to more exotic destinations.”

But reach is not the only argument in favor of Lufthansa Cargo. “A reliable and transparent cold chain is the be-all and end-all in food logistics,” explains Nicole Ahrensfeld. “When we ship the raw materials for Capri-Sun, we rely on the Fresh or the Cool product.” Shipments of machinery or packaging materials travel as td.Pro or, if particularly urgent, as td.Flash. “It feels great to be part of an enterprise that is taking such a well-known ­product to the world. No matter in which country I spot a child holding a Capri-Sun, it just makes me smile,” says the logistics manager. Laughing with her, Rohatsch can only agree.

Photos: Matthias Aletsee