KHS Group introduces its new line configuration for the highly automated production of variety beverage packs in the latest edition of our Innovation Spotlight. 

Different flavours of one beverage in the same secondary packaging – this is the kind of added value the variety pack gives consumers. Thanks to a new configuration of tried-and-tested KHS machines, this increasingly popular pack can now be produced in a highly automated fashion.

A packaging trend that originated in the USA is now spreading to a growing number of other countries: what is known as the variety or rainbow pack. It contains several different types of beverages, enabling the consumer to try out a range of products in one secondary pack.

This style of packaging is normally used for beverages in the high price bracket, such as premium beers, energy drinks or hard seltzers. For beverage producers, the benefits are obvious: they can directly introduce their customers to not one but several product variants during a market launch, for example.

Practically unlimited variety

Numerous different systems for producing packs like these exist. Owing to the varying number of manual tasks to be performed, however, to date these were only available in the low-capacity range and were usually operated by consignment companies.

KHS now presents a line configuration that, with its high degree of automation, makes it possible to produce variety packs in the high-capacity range for the very first time, processing up to 120,000 cans per hour, for instance. The system is basically a repackaging line, which separates containers that have already been placed on trays and pallets on the actual production line and recombines them to form mixed packs.


To this end, beverage cans are fed by type to the repackaging line from the warehouse on pallets and trays. Two robots first depalletize the different product types while pushers separate the trays into individual rows. Two vacuum unpackers then lift the cans off the tray and place them in separate positions on the conveyor belt.

From here the cans travel in single adjacent lanes to the packaging machine, with a different flavour in each line. In the machine, the containers are then grouped into packs of four, six, eight, twelve, 18 or 24 or other mixed packs and packaged in closed boxes.

The smaller FullyEnclosed packs are returned to the trays previously emptied. These have run through the line parallel to the cans and can therefore be reused. With larger packs, additional packaging for transport is not needed as these are stable enough to be palletized as they are and are conveyed straight to the palletizer.

Up to six flavours

Depending on the configuration of the repackaging line, different mixes of two, three, four or six flavours are possible.

“The charm of our system is that we use our Innopack PPZs,” explains Nils Schneider, the sales expert responsible for the variety pack at KHS. “These are proven applications in the returnables industry that we’ve converted for this purpose and equipped with newly developed format parts. The use of familiar technology also has the advantage that operators don’t need to undergo any special training. And there’s no more effort involved from batch to batch when changing between different sized packs than that needed for a totally normal format changeover.”

This content was sponsored by KHS Group.