Carefully filled in PET bottles
Coming from the west of France, we reach the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The Massif Central welcomes us. From a distance we can already make out the volcanic landscape of the Chaîne des Puys with its 1,465 m high volcano Puy-de-Dôme. This Chaîne des Puys is represented by the silhouette of the Puy Pariou on the label of the water bottler Volvic, and this is our next stop on this tour!
Arriving at the Volvic factory, we are greeted by Project Manager Michael De Macedo. He is responsible for installing two new PET production lines at Volvic. With enthusiasm and verve, he tells us about the features of this special place and the Volvic source.
“Volvic natural mineral water is drawn from the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes. At the heart of the Volvic catchment area, the rainwater infiltration zone, water trickles and percolates for nearly five years in contact with ancient rocks. Throughout its journey in this vast natural filter, water acquires its mineral composition and unique taste. Collected at a depth of between 50 and 100 m, the water is bottled directly. It is therefore pumped and transported to the bottling plant through a stainless-steel pipe.
Its original purity is maintained from its emergence to its bottling: from the volcanic depths to home, without any chemical treatment. It is never in contact with ambient air until the first time the bottle is opened. Volvic natural mineral water has a low mineral content (= dry residue < 500 mg/l), so the whole family can drink as much as they like every day with no limits.”
The Volvic production site covers an area of 125,000 m2, with an area of 309,000 m2 free for further growth, the equivalent of 60 football fields. Around 850 employees with permanent contracts working in the plant. While Michael reports we are guided through a small exhibition area about the history of Volvic company. Finally, we reach the production halls, the heart of the factory.
“Today, we have eight production lines for the bottling of Volvic natural mineral water. Seven lines for PET bottles and one for glass bottles in Volvic still water plant. On Volvic Fruit’s plant there are five production lines we are bottling Volvic fruit drinks, while one of them can fill PET bottles and bricks. We produce rPET and vPET preforms on six Husky and one Netstal machines, in a lot of different combinations of resin, dyes and percentage, with neck sizes of 29/25 and 30/25. Our ambition is to produce the whole product range of Volvic out of 100% rPET by 2025.We need to modify all our lines to be able to use tethered caps by the end of the year for Volvic plant and by the end of 2024 for Volvic Fruit plant. We are in a period of big modification on the plant in order to change and modify the machines to be able to implement tethered cap on all our products.”
In another production hall we see one new Ergoblock L from Krones as the new line 12. Michael tells us that Volvic chose this technology because it is the most efficient in terms of the quantity of water and air used and in terms of “waste”. For example, there is no more rinsing, if a bottle has a labeling defect, we can eject it before filling it. This is not the case with a Combi or traditional line technology. Furthermore, there are five Sidel Combi, one Combi of Kosme, one Combi by SMI, Blower 5 SBO and some blower of Krupp. Volvic produces still water in 0.33 l, 0.5 l, 0.75 l, 1 l, 1.5 l, and 8 l, carbonated drinks in 0.75 l and 0.45 l bottles. Other flavoured drinks in 0.5 l, 0.75 l, 1 l, 1.5 l according to Michael.
“In 2022 we have filled 1,430 billion bottles, which represent 1,770 billion liters in total; from 2017 to 2022 we got stable volumes. Volvic makes 98% of its sales in Europe and its main markets are France, Germany, and UK. Volvic is n°1 in mineral waters in France, n°1 in still mineral waters in Germany, n°1 in flavoured waters in United Kingdom and finally n°1 in flavoured waters in Switzerland“, Michael summarised.
“For the future we will have major projects here in the production plant: The bottling lines 11 & 12 will be equipped with innovative technology from Krones, with the Ergobloc. These are lines without rinsing and more precise bottling technologies. From 2017, we have invested 30 million of euros in new lines and we have saved 13% of water. And finally, we have the Re-Use project. The objective of Re-Use is to treat the wastewater in order to obtain potable water quality and to reuse this treated water for equipment cleaning. This project is part of a larger plan for the rational use of water which was contracted between Volvic and the authorities on September 23, 2021. This plan is part of the voluntary roadmap carried out since 2017 to preserve this resource and act in a sustainable way, with a long-term and collective vision. This project could double the water savings achieved by 2025 and change industrial practices by paving the way for other companies,“ Michael states.
As we come to the end of our tour through the factory, Michael mentions that it is special to work for Volvic because the people grow up with the company and really love it. “We also got a beautiful natural resource that we preserved everyday with the Comité Environnement pour la Protection de l’Impluvium de Volvic (CEPIV) and other actors.”
Photo top: Michael De Macedo, Project Manager at Volvic and Heike Fischer, PETplanet Insider