Closure Systems: Open and Shut
March 01, 2009
by Kimberlie Clyma
Deciding which closure option to use on a baked product depends on the type of equipment the bakery is running and the specific needs of the end consumer. Other considerations include application efficiency and speed, equipment reliability and closure cost.
When choosing a closure system for bagged baked product, the most popular options include twist ties, plastic tabs and tape systems. Each has its own features and benefits that bakers must consider before making a selection.
Plastic tabs are a consumerfriendly option for bakers. Their benefits include being easy to grasp, remove and reapply. The tabs are notched to hold the gathered bag closed, and they come in a variety of sizes and styles to accommodate small, lighter product with thin film as well as heavy-duty, thicker bags holding heavier amounts of product.
Kwik Lok Corp., Yakima, WA, offers hand-applied, semiautomatic, automatic and dispenser type bag closures in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The tabs can be imprinted with a freshness date code, price, lot code or any other pertinent information.
On the equipment side, Kwik Lok offers a full line of semiautomatic and automatic tab applicators. For small bakeries or repack lines its small bag closing system closes bags in a vertical position for hand application of the tab. Since it uses the same tab as the automated equipment, bakeries only need to stock one style of the closure, which minimizes inventory and eliminates operator confusion.
The company’s fully automatic tab applicator model virtually eliminates maintenance because the all-electronic machine has very few moving parts and plug-in components. Downtime is further minimized by a simple mounting system that permits quick removal and replacement of the unit itself. Furthermore, no-tool removal of guards and covers expedites clearing of jams. Auxiliary equipment such as bag tensioners and conveyors may be ordered with tab applicators.
Twist ties are probably the least expensive of all closure options, and very commonly used with bakery products according to Mark Hotze, operations manager for Burford Corp., Maysville, OK. Twist ties are also consumer friendly because it’s easy to open and reclose. They are often reused for different household purposes aside from reclosing the bagged bakery product.
Because twist ties are available in a variety of colors, bakers oftentimes use a color-coding system to indicate the day of the week the product was baked, or the day of the week the product should be pulled from the shelves. This is a quick, easy and inexpensive way for bakers to incorporate freshness dates onto their products, Mr. Hotze said.
Twist ties come in a variety of structures including paper and wire, plastic and wire or paper, plastic and wire. Bedford Industries, Worthington, MN, recently introduced a Biodegradable twist tie that is completely shelf stable and will not degrade until being placed in a landfill or home compost. An independent laboratory estimated based on test results that the twist tie will fully biodegrade in approximatley 1.1 years. Bakery tying equipment changes are not necessary.
Twist tie application equipment may be specified in a variety of formats. Models are available to integrate with vertical, horizontal or specialty baggers. Burford’s Servo Twist Tyer offers the fastest line speeds, with speeds in excess of 100 bags per minute, Mr. Hotze said. Burford’s 2200 Servo Twist Tyer model uses 25% less energy than previous models thanks to more energy-efficient motors and a more effective circuit board, and uses 20% less materials than previous models, Mr. Hotze added. The previous 4.25-in.-long tie now measures 3.75 in., which can save users $2,000 on closure material costs annually.
Burford also offers bakers looking for additional marketing opportunities its Smart Servo Tagger system. Coupons and logos can be tagged with the twist ties allowing the baker to deliver more merchandising information to the consumer. Bedford’s Flag Ties serve a similar purpose. They are identification tags adhered to the end of the twist tie, which allow the baker to deliver additional information to the consumer including nutritional information or recipes.
The tape seal is globally known as a safe, inexpensive seal, and has the added benefit of being metal detector friendly. Select Bag Sealers Ltd. (SBS), Leeds, England, produces and supplies a wide range of automated bag sealing machines. SBS designs and builds machines from semi to fully automatic that will operate at speeds up to 95 packages per minute.
A variety of print formats can be applied to the tape seal using either hot foil or electronic thermal printers, the latter being capable of continually updating chronological information without manual intervention. SBS bag sealers can be supplied to fit within existing packaging lines, or complete semiautomatic lines can be supplied for medium volume requirements. The Tape Closure System (TCS) from Burford offers ease of use, uncomplicated design, efficiency and speed to securely close and seal a variety of bag sizes. “Consumers in the UK and Russia tend to prefer tape closures compared with other closures devices such as plastic clips and twist tyes,” Mr. Hotze said. “TCS is less expensive and forms a tighter seal than plastic clips.”
The system is available in right- or left-hand models and can achieve speeds greater than 100 bags per minute. It is PLC controlled, uses an integrated drive motor, allows quick and easy tape threading and is portable between packaging lines. The system also features a tape printing option enabling bakers to print code dates, sell-by dates, product descriptions, UPC codes and price information on the closure instead of on the packaging material.
Because food safety is a growing concern with manufacturers and consumers alike, Burford’s tamperevident device is becoming increasingly popular. With this seal, there is both a paper seal and a self- adhesive tape seal. The paper seal has to be broken to open the bag, then the selfadhesive seal allows it to be reclosed. “Tamper-evident closures are growing in popularity all over the world as food safety continues to be a consumer concern,” Mr. Hotze said.
Although there haven’t been too many dramatic changes to closure systems used in the baking and snack industry in recent years, there have been some important adjustments offering bakers opportunities to use more environmentally friendly materials in addition to more efficient systems to help them reduce overall costs. Delivering additional merchandising information alongside the closure is another way bakers can deliver more to their consumers than simply a closed package.