The Nexts big thing

Italian capsule manufacturer Nexts has a history that closely resembles the fortunes of the industry that it operates in. Just as the capsule industry has grown stratospherically since it hit the market, Nexts has risen rapidly since its establishment in 2011. Starting off as the realisation of an unsolicited opportunity, Nexts is now producing more than 500 million capsules per year. Nexts is the result of a partnership between Andrea Varisco and Richard Vergiani, who formed the company as an offshoot of thermoforming mould producer, Termostampi, after seeing the potential for coffee capsules. “A big client of Termostampi asked us if we were interested in producing capsules as well, not only moulds,” Vergiani, President of Nexts, tells GCR Magazine. “And we accepted the challenge.” Based in Cernusco sul Naviglio on the outskirts of Milan in Italy, Termostampi has been involved in thermoform moulding for more than 40 years, servicing clients all around the globe. With this heritage imprinted in its DNA, Nexts dedicated itself to servicing the higher end of the market right from the start. “We started working with a top player in the coffee sector, so we built a system that could assure high volume, high standard and performance,” Vergiani says. Nexts specialises in themoforming coffee capsules made from polypropylene or polystyrene. These capsules are completed with with barrier properties that protect the coffee from both oxygen and humidity. “Our capsules are probably the most complex capsules on the market,” Vergiani says. “Some of our products have high technological complexity due to the specific requirements of our clients, such as coupling systems – a sort of hook for internal filters, undercutting dimensions – which are not easy to be realised.” As well as its ability to produce technologically complex capsules in response to the specific requirements of its clients, Nexts places greatemphasis on its ability to cater to high volume contracts rapidly and efficiently. “We drive and support the client in all the steps of product development: from the concept to the engineering and prototype to the phase of mould production,” Vergiani says. “Thanks to our partnership with Termostampi, we can guarantee rapid service – in three weeks we can provide to the client the first sampling of 40,000 capsules.” Nexts’ new generation thermoforming plant has the capacity to produce more than 100,000 capsules per hour. “High volumes and precision are our goals,” Vergiani says. “Our production technology is in mould cutting: it means forming and cutting simultaneously, which allow to have high precision products,” he adds. “Each capsule has the same concentricity and very small tolerance, which means that the flaws are close to zero.” Nexts approach is to thoroughly control every step of the manufacturing process to ensure the best possible result. This reaches back to the careful selection of materials for use in the manufacturing process, based on its decades of shared experience with Termostampi. All of Nexts’ plant machinery is state-of-the-art, dedicated to precision and efficiency in all of its operations. This devotion to detail translates into a strong commitment to producing an end product that is as close to perfection as possible, and is reliable and predictable for the customer.
This is why Termostampi has clients for all around the world, some of whom have been working with the company for more than 20 years. While Nexts has its roots firmly in the coffee industry, Vergiani says he is seeing the demand for single serve technology spreading into other areas. “Single service products are spreading quickly in all sectors, thanks to the convenience and quality that offers,” he says. Vergiani points to other hot drinks industries, such as tea, as areas where there is a lot of potential for growth. Soups and other meals “to go” also have promise, he says. However, as with many other players in the industry, Nexts is becoming more aware of the need to look at more sustainable materials for the capsules themselves. This is an area that Vergiani says is of particular interest to his company, which is looking at the use of compostable materials in the future. These materials have been in development for some years now, but are only now reaching levels of functionality and reliability where they can be considered for use on the broader market. Vergiani says that the use of biodegradable materials for the capsules is more appealing than the prospect of using recyclable materials, as it means the used capsule can be simply and efficiently disposed of by the end consumer, reducing overall waste without adding the need for more industrial processes. This is in line with Nexts’ commitment to a principle of lean manufacturing.  Ensuring the most efficient processes and technologies are used at every step along the production chain to get the best result at the lowest cost – environmentally, financially and in terms of time and materials used – as possible. All of these challenges are testament to the fact that the capsule technology that Nexts works with is, as Vergiani says, “alive”. “We continue to refine them, in collaboration with our clients, in order to reach perfection,” he says. “Considering the capsule as a system that has to work perfectly within another system – the coffee machine. It must be flawless.” According to Vergiani, the success of this approach comes from Nexts’ willingness to listen to, and work with, the needs and ideas of its clients. It is from these new needs and ideas that innovation is born, he says, and it is sometimes the most unexpected requests that yield the most exciting results. “Improve and differentiate is our task,” Vergiani says, adding that Nexts is not just concerned with creating the capsule itself, but also working with its clients right along the production chain. “We assist also during the phase of capsule filling and sealing, to the functionality in the coffee machine,” he says. “Those steps are fundamental to obtain a product which work perfectly.” GCR

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