A year of packaging innovation

by Lynn Petrak
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Washdown flowwrapping systems focus on sanitary design to minimize bacteria harboring areas.
 

At the cusp of 2017, it’s not the same “auld lang syne” for bakers and snack manufacturers searching for new ways to streamline their packaging departments. That’s because the post-production part of their operations have become increasingly complex in response to consumer and customer requests for new formats offering everything from single-serve and resealable alternatives to tamper-evident and ready-to-display secondary packaging options.

During the past several months and in the run-up to October’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) and Pack Expo in November, packaging suppliers have unveiled and promoted a host of equipment innovations for a marketplace driven by consumers’ tastes for variety — and one that has been affected by new regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Whether it’s a new state-of-the-art system or upgrade to a popular piece of equipment, improvements hinge on the same factors that food manufacturers and their suppliers have been moving toward for the past several years, including flexibility, efficiency, consistency and lower cost of ownership, among others. And this year, developments in packaging for the baking and snack industries took some significant steps forward.

Thinking ahead in equipment solutions isn’t limited to 2017. It’s an ongoing journey that has seen greater demands put on the type and style of packaging for snacks and baked goods. “As a company, we have to look down the road and say, ‘How can we make products fresher longer? How can we develop better packaging solutions for customers? And how can we make the package look amazing?’ ” noted Angela McDaniel, marketing and sales manager for Formost Fuji.

From the receipt of raw ingredients to consumers’ recycling bins and garbage cans, and from one end of the process to the other, today’s systems are designed to improve operations and often make it easier for bakers to provide quality packaged products. As crowded floors at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) and Pack Expo showed, along with a stream of product news from a variety of suppliers, there are several examples of advances and invention. Baking & Snack highlights some of them as one year ends and another begins.

Easy-open tray-hood packaging can be created from a single piece of corrugated board.
 

Seeking flexibility

Flexible packaging, which was all over the exhibit halls at IBIE, Pack Expo and other industry events in 2016, remains a key format for all types of food products, literally from soup to nuts. Bakers and snack manufacturers continue to search for flexibility in equipment to allow them to be as nimble as possible as they produce a plethora of products.

“Versatility and flexibility are definitely at the top,” Mr. Miller said. “Bakers are asking equipment ­manufacturers to look ahead and build in the maximum flexibility to allow the same piece of equipment to handle multiple products with minimal changeover.”

Shayne De la Force, chief marketing officer at TNA North America, Inc., agreed that a system’s ability to adapt — often on the fly — provides the foundation for improving efficiency that adds to the bottom line. “Flexibility is important to customers who have to change product over,” he said, citing TNA’s system that allows users to switch from pillow bags to other types of bags and to switch between different weights.

Kwik Lok’s new KLC-S Slicer line, a semiautomatic slicing and packaging line for sliced and unsliced bread, offers versatility beyond wrapping. It features continuous rotating angled blades that pull the loaves through the system for improved slice quality. Meanwhile, the slicer is also equipped with a bag blower for easy opening of plastic or paper pre-made wicket bags. It also features an in-line Kwik Lok bag closing system.

As companies expand their product lines, they’re adding more portable and convenient products to complement their portfolio of larger package sizes. “People are looking for machines to run several different types of buns and different sizes of packaging. Single serve is still huge, and we think that will continue to grow,” Ms. McDaniel projected. Her colleague, Dennis Gunnell, vice-president of sales and marketing, cited Formost Fuji’s bread wrapper with pass-through capability that offers the versatility to run bread with or without wrapping.

Meanwhile, the ability to deliver more diverse product lines requires machinery that allows for quick changeovers. Rick Gessler, director of marketing and strategic account management at Delkor, pointed to the company’s carton case and tray former, the Trayfecta FS. “It offers minimized tooling for easy changeover and has a wide range of discharge elevations,” he said.

Automation in the packaging area is not reserved for larger operations. Burford Corp.’s Model EL54C Entry Level twist tyer allows small to mid-size bakers and snack manufacturers the ability to move into a semi-­automated packaging operation. “With its built-in conveyor and portability, it is perfect for helping streamline the packaging process with labor savings while providing a high-quality tight twist-tie closure,” said Clay Miller, sales engineer.

Meanwhile, Burford’s Model 2200M Smart Tyer is available for high-speed packaging lines. “The design incorporates quick-change features that allow for faster turnaround and scheduled maintenance procedures,” Mr. Miller noted.

Portable, user-friendly twist tyers streamline the packaging process with labor savings while providing a high-quality tight closure.
 

Putting safety first

With more safety requirements coming down the pike, bakers and snack manufacturers can take advantage of improvements for both employee and product safety.

“In terms of safety on anything — a cartoner, a wrapper — the question is, ‘How do I gain access to the machine so I can use it, but how do I still keep people safe?’ ” said Vince Tamborello, senior vice-president, material handling, for Pro Mach. “We’ve had customers recently ask, ‘How do I load a horizontal wrapper with a piece of sheet metal and a flight going by?’ We’ve had similar systems with cartoning applications where they’re hand-­loading and have talked about infeeds because they don’t want people’s hands in an area where flights are moving.”

Providing a safe finished product all the way through to the consumer is always top of mind for today’s food manufacturers, and tamper-evident packaging aids in that. “Consumers want to trust that the product they buy has not been previously opened, and bakers want to ensure the same,” Mr. Miller said. “The TCS-400M Tamper Evident Tape Closure System continues to gain momentum in certain areas. Bakery producers and consumers take comfort in its ability to provide a simple and effective tamper-evident bag closure.” In addition to providing tamper evidence, the tape closer can also be printed on directly, which is useful for sell-by dates or other product information.

To address concerns about safety while improving sanitation, Mr. Tamborello suggested automatic feeding can prevent operators from working in an area. “For us, it’s, ‘I don’t want people working here, so what if I put the product down outside of the machine and then you put it on pitch and put it into the machine, and then I’m out of that area altogether?’ From our point of view, the focus has been to replace operators in a dangerous area with a secondary machine that allows the operators to be in a safer area,” he explained.

Likewise, Ross Long, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Kliklok-Woodman (now part of the Bosch Group), underscored innovations for improving safety in the cartoning process. The company’s standard designs have safety specifications requiring all power and pneumatic pressure to be dropped from a machine before it can be accessed. At Pack Expo, Kliklok-Woodman and Bosch showcased its Enterprise cartoner, which was designed specifically to allow an operator to walk right next to the carton transport mechanism once the guard is opened up. “Because there are no obstructions, it makes sanitation easier. It also makes clearing a jam easier because you’re not bending over and reaching,” he noted.

European suppliers have another level of safety ­protections, reported Bill Kehrli, vice-president of sales and marketing at Cavanna Packaging. “Because we’re a European manufacturer, we have to follow CE guidelines. OSHA guidelines are much less stringent,” he said, adding that major companies have been indicating they want safety beyond OSHA standards.

Slicing and packaging lines raise the quality and output of small industrial bakeries.
 

Safe food, clean design

Other innovations are emerging in product safety as well. Heat and Control recently launched a new line of Ishida X-ray inspection systems featuring a fail-safe system that prevents contaminated products from reaching consumers in the event of a power outage or breakdown. The line includes three advanced X-ray systems, ranging from an entry level solution to a system geared for complex products, such as meat and cereals.

At Pack Expo, Heat and Control also featured new models of inline inspection systems that come in wider widths and sizes to handle a greater variety of products and packages. Additionally, the company developed the next generation of software that includes a diagnostic maintenance feature that can pinpoint mechanical and electrical problems and reduce the time for repairs up to 15% or more.

Despite the fact that packaging isn’t a food-contact area, many bakers and snack makers are holding their equipment design expectations to the same sanitary standards as the rest of their operations.

In fact, Mr. Tamborello noted that Pro Mach is seeing some customers request stainless steel and fully washdown-rated equipment, despite the fact that it’s in a wipedown and dry area. “We have another customer that we work with that made a plant-wide decision to wet-wash all the equipment in the plant, including secondary packaging,” he said.

Crumb cleanup is also an important issue that can be solved by having product fall straight through to the floor via an angled guide mechanism that will bring debris out from under the machine. “An angled piece of sheet metal is very easy to clean instead of getting into that machine for misfeeds and jams,” Mr. Tamborello noted. “Anything that occurs inside the machine falls right back out.”

Kliklok-Woodman employs a “drip, drain and draw” philosophy, which eliminates water collection points such as inside corners, and also eliminates accumulation and catch points. Keeping packaging equipment clean often comes down to matching the proper cleaning method to the process. Mr. Long noted that while the frozen prepared food industry focuses on more on water washdown with mild caustics than bakery does, it can still move in that direction. “We’ve taken the path to say, ‘We’re going to design and build all our machinery for an IP65 or higher level of water washdown,’ ” he said. “It affords our customers, whether they’re in a dry packaging environment or a wet packaging environment, a lot more flexibility in their sanitation procedures.”

Food safety continues to be the driver behind sanitation. “FSMA is going to change the thinking of machine designers across the board. So look for these types of things moving forward,” Mr. Long suggested.

Whether influenced by worker safety, sanitation, process flexibility or integration, packaging suppliers are looking toward new horizons in the upcoming year and beyond.

Find resources for packaging innovation by visiting www.esourcebaking.com. Browse by category under Equipment, and click on Package for listings.

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