This paper provides a model to identify the most appropriate packaging system (i.e. the industrial process by which the product is hygienically coupled with the container) for different liquid foods. The model developed is grounded on the Analytic Network Process (ANP) methodology, a powerful and flexible tool used in decision making. To select the appropriate packaging system, themodel takes into account several factors, including packagingmaterial, cost, safety, performance (e.g., speed and accuracy), plant reliability and flexibility, which may directly or indirectly affect the suitability of the process. Moreover, the chemical and physical properties of commercial liquid foods, and the packaging technology are included in the model as further variables to be considered for the final choice. We try to answer the following research questions: is a filling system appropriate for a given liquid food? Is it compatible with a defined packaging technology? When several filling systems are available for a given liquid food, how can the most appropriate one be selected? The ease of application of the model and the robustness of the results provided have been tested on a sample of 59 commercial liquid foods, for which the model allowed to identify the most suitable packaging system, providing useful practical guidelines. The model was developed in close collaboration with a panel of experts, operating in the beverage bottling industry, and validated by the same experts; thus, the resulting tool is suitable for use as a decision support system by food and bottling industries.
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