Packaging for the fickle foodservice channel

by Laurie Gorton
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Highland Baking’s new Spartanburg, SC, plant stocks almost as many packaging styles as it has customers. In the foodservice supply business today, that’s normal.

“Pretty much every customer has its own case or package configuration, determined by how they run their operations,” explained Michael Galenson, director of operations, Highland Baking Co., Northbrook, IL.

For those preferring rolls in 6-count bags, a laned conveyor sorts the finished products into rows. The loading system for the Formost Fuji bagger creates two layers of three buns in each package. A Kwik Lok system applies clip closures. When running loaf bread, a gate located after the spiral cooling towers diverts loaves to a Bettendorf slicer ahead of the bagger.

Bulk-packed buns are routed to the LeMatic line with a horizontal slicer and a center-seal bulk packer. Each pack gets a lot code, and cases are loaded with two packs each, separated by a layer of cardboard.

Center seals offer a relatively new approach to bulk packaging. As the sealed pack moves forward, it passes between two thin wheels with heated outer rims. As the wheels roll across the package and between rows of buns, they heat-seal the bulk pack into two separate chambers. The sealed strip holds the two sections together and stabilizes buns as the whole package enters the shipping case. Later, at the foodservice unit, the customer’s staff can open sections separately, thus avoiding exposure of buns in the other section and prolonging their fresh shelf life.

Use of cardboard cases reflects the one-way nature of the supply chain connecting most foodservice bakers with their customers. Because these bakers usually ship their frozen bakery goods to third-party warehouses for distribution, the returnable plastic basket-style trays common to fast-food supply are not practical.

Two Loma metal detectors monitor package goods before casing. North American box formers, case sealers and pallet wrappers finish the packaging job. Operators stack cases onto pallets, which are then stabilized with stretch wrap before they enter the freezer. The packaging line also has Atlantic poly-bag and case printers.

To better manage so many packaging styles, the company has ordered a new racking system for these materials.

While all Spartanburg products are made for foodservice clients and all sent to various distribution centers, some is transported by the bakery, but most goes out on the customer’s own trucks.

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