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Number two Georgian brewery in less than two years

Georgian Beer Company considers KHS technology a major success factor

Oliver Schneider*
Ivan Zabun**
In Georgia with its approximately 4.5 million inhabitants the average monthly income is just €175.00 per month; according to Tsezar Chocheli, owner of the Georgian Beer Company, this low income is the main reason for the very slow increase in the country's consumption of beer. Before the demise of the Soviet Union about 60 liters of beer were bought per person and year, with this figure falling to 10 liters per head at the end of the 1990s and currently at 25 liters per capita. Says Chocheli, "In the medium to long term I'm reckoning on us again achieving a per capita consumption of 60 liters of beer per annum here in Georgia." With its top beers, made only from ingredients sourced in Germany – with the exception of Georgia's excellent water – the Georgian Beer Company is doing its utmost to help promote the drinking of beer nationwide. Chocheli explains. "Our top priority is to provide only the best quality beer. This is why we invested in KHS technology which in retrospect was exactly the right thing to do. We're extremely grateful for each and every one of our KHS lines and I believe that they all play a major part in the success of our brewery. I'm also really convinced by KHS' excellent service." The Georgian Beer Company has indeed gained lots of experience with KHS plant engineering during the brewery's relatively brief existence (it was founded in 2012), with a turnkey PET line, a can filler integrated into an existing glass line with a rinsing system and conveyors and a keg line from KHS already in operation, plus a contract signed for a second KHS turnkey glass line.
Beer a traditional beverage
Tsezar Chocheli became interested in brewing at an early age, partly because he grew up in the mountains of Georgia where beer and the production thereof enjoy a long tradition, with beer even heralded as a 'holy' beverage in its early days. Chocheli remembers that "in the past all major decisions used to be sealed with a mug of good beer. This is still sometimes the case and is a tradition I consider to be extremely pleasant!"
*Head of Sales for Eastern Europe, KHS GmbH, Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Phone: +49 671 852 2623.
**Sales Georgia, KHS GmbH, Tbilisi office, Georgia. Phone: +37 369 123145
All breweries sold in 2008 ...
At the tender age of 22, in 1991 Chocheli decided to no longer simply produce beer for home consumption but to also offer it for sale. He began by making around 150 liters of beer a day, selling most of his produce in the local neighborhood. In 1997 Chocheli opened Lomissi Brewery where he sold approximately 25 hectoliters of beer each day. By 2001 the daily turnover had risen to about 300 hectoliters, with this figure at 500 hectoliters in 2004. The idea of setting up a second brewery was discussed – a notion which was promptly realized. In 2006 Chocheli launched his second beer company just outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi where in 2007 he produced a total of 370,000 hectoliters together with Lomissi Brewery. However, during the 2008 South Ossetia War Lomissi Brewery in South Ossetia was expropriated. In view of the country's political situation, in the same year Chocheli also decided to sell the brewery near Tbilisi to the Efes Brewery Group. In addition he committed himself under contract to not start any more activities in the brewing industry for three years.
... and the Georgian Beer Company launched in 2012 after building up four other companies
Chocheli tells us more. "I had plenty to keep me busy during those three years  and founded four factories which made candy, laundry detergent, gypsum and concrete respectively. Once the three years were over, I told Efes I was going to open a new brewery called the Georgian Beer Company which would start production in nine months. At the time nobody believed that a fully functioning brewery could be up and running in such a short space of time." The surprise was all the greater, then, when the Georgian Beer Company, designed for an annual capacity of 450,000 hectoliters, did indeed open for business after just nine months, with the first bottle of beer rolling off the production line on April 4, 2012. 
A 35% share of the Georgian beer market in less than two years
2012 was a successful year for the company, in which over 200,000 hectoliters of beer were sold. In 2013 320,000 hectoliters were sold, making the Georgian Beer Company number two among the breweries of Georgia – second only to Efes – and earning it a market share of 35%. The brewery is expecting sales of 450,000 hectoliters for 2014. The company has already begun increasing its capacity, in part with the help of KHS machinery. The next stage in the expansion project is to yield 660,000 hectoliters of beverage. To quote Chocheli, "Our vision is to become the leading producer in Georgia – both in the beer segment and for non-alcoholic beverages."
Three brand beers with very different characteristics
The company believes it's in a good position to reach its target with its brand beers Zedazeni and Khevsuruli and the German label König Pilsner, which is brewed under license.  Zedazeni is a bottom-fermented lager, with Khevsuruli a dark beer made in full accordance with the traditional Georgian brewing process using four different types of malt.  
Georgian Beer Company first brewery in the world to brew König Pilsner under license
The Georgian Beer Company is the first brewery in the world allowed to brew König Pilsner under license. Chocheli smiles. "We didn't want to brew any old German beer under license; we wanted to make the 'king among beers' [the brand's slogan]. Our success on the market has proved that we were right to do so. We now notch up 25% of our total beer sales with König Pilsner, producing as much of this as we do of Khevsuruli. The remaining 50% is attributed to Zedazeni." König Pilsner decided to enter into partnership with the Georgian Beer Company primarily thanks to the latter's high demands for quality and, accordingly, its use of ultramodern technical equipment. König also recognized the high growth potential the Georgian beer market holds. Vasili Sulkhhanishvili, technical director for the Georgian Beer Company, says, "At the König Pilsner site in Duisburg in Germany a blind tasting session was organized where professional beer tasters were challenged to find out whether the König Pilsner in their glasses was made in Germany or Georgia. Nobody could find even the tiniest difference between the tasting samples. This finally convinced our German partners that they'd made the right decision in granting us the license."
While Zedazeni is geared towards young adults, Khevsuruli is specifically designed for an older target group which appreciates Georgian traditions and the taste of Georgian beer.  In Georgia König Pilsner is also treated as a top premium product and is the beer favored to celebrate all kinds of success, big or small.
Clear growth despite high price strategy
The Georgian Beer Company has placed all of its brand beers in the high price segment. "If we compare, our beers cost more than those of our competitors," Chocheli explains, "yet despite this they're growing faster. I think this is because Georgians pay great attention to quality when they treat themselves to a beer." PET bottles of Zedazeni holding 2.5 liters are sold for 5.5 Georgian lari (GEL1 = €0.45), for instance, with Khevsuruli and König Pilsner in containers of this size selling for GEL6 and GEL6.5. If you look at these prices and then consider how modest the aforementioned average income is in Georgia, this is quite a luxury for many of the people here.  
Also extremely successful with non-alcoholic beverages
The Georgian Beer Company also pursues an uncompromising strategy of quality and high pricing when it comes to its non-alcoholic beverages. The company currently markets five soda pops under the Zedazeni label in the flavors pear, lemon, grape, tarragon and cream soda. Says Sulkhhanishvili, "We only use natural flavoring for our soft drinks." The most popular alcohol-free beverage is pear soda pop with a third of sales in the non-alcoholic segment. With its sodas, the pear, grape and tarragon varieties of which have been available in a low-calorie version since the beginning of 2013, the company holds a 25% share of the bottled soft drinks market. The Georgian Beer Company also recently added an energy drink to its range called Wilder, the first the country has produced. This, too, very quickly proved successful, with monthly sales amounting to 100,000 cans not long after its launch. 
Sold all over Georgia, with more exports planned
Georgian Beer Company products are distributed throughout Georgia and exported to over ten different countries. "We're taking one step at a time and keeping an open mind with regard to all future markets," states Chocheli. Incidentally, the company has already won several awards for its beers at international competitions in Moscow and Sochi. At the 22nd International Beer Forum in Sochi in May 2013 the Georgian Beer Company was presented with four gold medals for its beers, coming away from the 20th International Exhibition in Moscow in February of the same year with two golds and three silvers.
Large PET bottles the big sellers
The company fills its products into bottles made of PET and glass, into cans and into kegs, with 60% sold in the PET bottle, 15% in glass bottles, 13% in the keg and 12% in cans. What's interesting about and also typical for the Georgian market is that the 2.5 and 2-liter sizes are very popular. These make up 50% and 35% of all sales in PET, with 15% attributed to the 1.5-liter PET bottle. The main reason for this is that on the one hand in Georgia beer is traditionally drunk among friends and on the other hand compared to the 1-liter PET bottle and to glass bottles and cans the larger PET bottle sizes are less expensive. 
KHS technology right from the start
The Georgian Beer Company and KHS began working together when the brewery was founded and the Georgians invested in the compact Innokeg Till CombiKeg system which can rack up to 90 kegs per hour. The system is based on the rotary principle which has been successfully operated and continuously developed by KHS for decades. The machine is equipped with five internal washing stations and one racking head. The various media required for each specific operating situation are supplied from caustic, acid, mixed water or hot water tanks integrated into the Innokeg Till CombiKeg’s housing. The exterior washing station is also built into the cladding. Once the outsides of the keg have been washed, the kegs pass through the line's interior washer. This uses a pulsed cleaning process which carefully sanitizes both the keg interior and riser pipe. A DFC or direct flow control filling system racks the beer quickly and gently, with low oxygen pickup and using very little CO2. Says Sulkhhanishvili, "KHS kegging technology had us convinced from the very start. One of the big pluses of this system is that we can also rack Petainer kegs with the minimum modification. This leaves all options open to us in the future."
One KHS line after another
The Georgian Beer Company's huge satisfaction with their new keg line soon formed the basis for another big order from KHS, this time for a can filler with an upstream rinser and conveyors (integrated into an existing glass line), a turnkey PET line and a turnkey glass line. The canner went into operation at the end of 2012, with the PET system starting production in March 2013. The installation of the glass line is planned for the start of 2014. 
Brilliant integration of the KHS can filler into an existing glass line
The brewery wished to have its new KHS can filler integrated into an existing glass line, the reason being that can sales in Georgia are still low. There's therefore no need for permanent canning and at the moment the beer company sees no necessity for investing in a full canning line. A KHS Innofill DVD filling system now fills the brewery's cans and utilizes the machines included on the existing glass line, such as the depalletizer, palletizer and pasteurizer, all perfectly linked by KHS conveyors. Should can sales rise in the future, the new KHS canner and conveyors can be removed from the glass line and placed on a separate canning line in a deliberately planned advance move. "This prepares us for all future eventualities," explains Sulkhhanishvili, "enabling us to react quickly if we have to."
The Innofill DVD is monoblocked with a can seamer and equipped with 30 filling stations. The system can process standard, sleek and slim cans. So that changeovers are fast and efficient, the filler features quick-change devices for reconfiguration to new can formats in a matter of minutes. An inclined rinsing system first rinses the cans with cold water and blows them out with sterile air. The Innofill DVD is based on a computer-controlled, volumetric filling concept. The principle of electromagnetic inductive flow metering is used here to achieve maximum fill level accuracy. Prior to being filled with beer the cans are first sealed, purged and then pressurized on the Innofill DVD. Purging cans with CO2 is important to ensure the low-oxygen filling of beer. Once CO2 purging and pressurization are complete, the liquid valve opens. Pneumatic cylinders control both the liquid valve and gas passages. The filling process takes place under pressure. Once filling is complete, the pressure is reduced to atmospheric pressure. Gas escapes through the snifting channel; snifting is pressure-controlled with little foaming. Besides filling beer the Innofill DVD is able to process the Georgian Beer Company's carbonated soda pops and energy drink and can also be used for the pressureless filling of still beverages, such as non-carbonated water. Chocheli is pleased. "In my opinion the most important machine on a bottling line is always the filler, as this is the one which comes into direct contact with the product. I personally believe and think that many beverage producers the world over would agree with me when I say that KHS offers one of the best fillers in the world. As an extremely quality-conscious company we feel we're obliged to invest in this top technology in the interests of our consumers."
InnoPET BloFill monoblock concept the highlight of the PET line
Chocheli is also very enthusiastic about the KHS turnkey PET line installed at the beginning of 2013 which processes 22,000 1-liter, 18,500 2-liter and 15,500 2.5-liter bottles per hour. The highlight in his eyes is the InnoPET BloFill blow molder/filler monoblock positioned in a sanitary room equipped with filter systems. "Here we have both perfect filling quality and the manufacture of top-quality PET bottles," smiles Chocheli.  Sulkhhanishvili adds, "We also appreciate the extremely sustainable bottle production." 
The InnoPET Blomax Series IV stretch blow molder with its 10 blow stations is indeed extremely economical. As opposed to the previous InnoPET Blomax Series III generation, it saves up to 25% in energy. In the heater, preform heating times are just about halved compared to the Series III InnoPET Blomax as they are heated by near infrared. Another highlight of the PET bottle manufacturing process is the servomotor-controlled stretching process which allows PET bottles to be optimized down to the last tenth of a gram in weight. This helps to save both costs and materials. High process stability is thus a given.
Downstream of the stretch blow molding process a transfer wheel removes the bottles from the blow station and adapts the distance of finished PET bottles to the pitch in the filler. The second module in the monoblock is an airlock which ensures that the filling and packaging areas remain strictly separate. As carbonated beverages are also filled on the monoblock, the third module is a cooling segment. 
Beverages are filled by an Innofill DVF which, like the KHS can filler, is suitable for many different types of beverage, with beer and carbonated or still soft drinks all doable. The bottom-up filling method with a long filling tube facilitates a particularly gentle filling process with low oxygen pickup in the product. The system has 108 filling and 12 capping stations and a 40 pi pitch so that it can also process the 2.5-liter PET bottle which is 118 mm in diameter. 
Cutting-edge inspection technology
After the PET bottles have been filled and capped, as on the canning line Innocheck CCI and Innocheck FHC inspection units check the closures and fill levels. Like the Innocheck LPI label inspection that takes place on the labeling machine they are integrated into the Innocheck platform at the Georgian Beer Company via the Innocheck CUB control device with a touch screen monitor for operating and visualization. The Innocheck platform can be extended as required at all times. Once they have been installed during operation, all the inspection units imaginable in a system can be easily docked onto the Innocheck CUB control unit. The necessary software can be extended within the Innocheck CUB control unit at any time.
Innoket 360 S for wrap-around labeling
The bottles are labeled by an Innoket 360 S roll-fed, wrap-around labeler. One of the highlights of the Innoket 360 S is its self-sharpening cutter. Another plus is the innovative, induction-based gluing system for precise and efficient gluing. The labeling station can be swiveled out to perform mismatch corrections during the ongoing production process. The segmented vacuum drum ensures quick and easy changeovers. The labeler is also compact in its design and provides excellent accessibility.  
Extremely gentle packing and palletizing process
Once they have been labeled the 2.5-liter PET bottles are equipped with a plastic carrying handle. This makes it easier for consumers to handle these large bottles which – as is usual for all types of bottle in Georgia – are sold in the shops singly. Retailers, however, normally take delivery of the filled PET bottles in shrink packs. At the Georgian Beer Company perfect packs are formed by an Innopack Kisters SP Basic. An additional mechanical brush function integrated into this packaging machine makes sure that the handle is perfectly positioned while the 2.5-liter PET bottles are being wrapped in film. The company's 1-liter PET containers are packed into units of 12, with packs of six being created for the heavier 2 and 2.5-liter PETs. 
A system of distributors and turners passes the shrink packs on to an Innopal PB1N2 palletizer in two lanes. Complete layers are then transferred from the layer preparation table to the pushover plate on the palletizer. Each layer is centered from all sides prior to discharge onto the pallet. The result is perfect layer formations, gentle product handling and high overall stability of the pallet load. The pallet wrapper downstream from the palletizer secures the pallet load. Says Sulkhhanishvili, "As to be expected of KHS, this system runs like clockwork. We have a permanently high line efficiency and are thus able to cope with the ever growing demand for PET bottles full of beer or non-alcoholic beverages."
Innopro Paramix C supplies all lines at the Georgian Beer Company
Included in the scope of delivery of the PET line is an Innopro Paramix C dosing and blending system which also serves all of the other lines at the Georgian Beer Company. It continuously makes both carbonated and non-carbonated beverages at a rate of up to 42,000 liters per hour. The first step in the Innopro Paramix C involves deaerating water using the two-stage vacuum spraying principle. Precision mass flowmetering takes place in the syrup pipe train upstream of the mixing pump. By using mass and Brix measurement diluted syrup phases can be automatically and immediately detected when the product is changed. This enables the mixing ratio of syrup and water to be adjusted in such a way that after blending the desired product is produced exactly as required in the given quality. Other advantages are that diluted syrup phases no longer have to be discarded and product changeovers are fast. After blending the syrup and water, the Innopro Paramix C then carbonates the product. KHS' special carbonation nozzle ensures that the carbon dioxide is optimally distributed and bonded in the product. The Innopro Paramix C operates and cleans itself fully automatically. Product changeovers merely involve selecting the relevant recipe on the touch screen, with over 1,000 recipes possible. "Things couldn't be any more flexible," says Sulkhhanishvili happily. 
Ultimate goal: to improve the quality of life in Georgia
The Georgian Beer Company would like to realize its vision with KHS plant engineering and soon become the biggest producer of non-alcoholic beverages and beer on the Georgian market.  Chocheli is optimistic. "I think we're very close to achieving this goal and could do so in the next year. We're still reckoning on further growth and that the amount of beer consumed per head in Georgia will rise to 40 liters a year by 2020, after that slowly creeping up to the 60-liter mark. We also believe that as salaries in Georgia rise there'll be a clear boost in the sale of bottled soft drinks. However, the Georgian Beer Company's main area of focus will continue to be the production of beer. For me, the Georgian Beer Company will in the future always be one of the many major businesses run by the Chocheli family. And with these important enterprises we are pursuing the goal to establish branches of industry in Georgia which will make life easier for our people and make our country more competitive." 

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