Food for thought

by Tracy Stout, PMMI
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Several factors drive change in today’s baking and snack manufacturing operations, such as diversifying consumer demands, fast-approaching compliance deadlines for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and a movement toward clean-label products. As a result, these companies seek solutions to enhance operational flexibility, improve sanitation processes and preserve product freshness while also helping products stand out in the retail landscape.

Pack Expo Las Vegas, to be held Sept. 28-30 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, will be the go-to event for baking and snack professionals who aim to stay ahead of industry trends and issues. Manufacturers will find the latest solutions for their packaging and processing hurdles as well as educational programming to inform on industry-wide challenges with FSMA compliance, small-batch production and boosting shelf life.

Diversifying consumer demands prompt baking and snack manufacturers to launch products in niche markets. Consider Nielsen’s 2015 Global Health & Wellness survey. More than 30,000 individuals expressed preference for products that improve health and weight loss efforts by eating foods rich in fiber and protein as well as whole grains and minerals. Additionally, consumers in all different demographics stated they would even pay more for foods that have no artificial flavors and are GMO-free or all-natural.

To meet these desires, manufacturers are shifting from large-batch to small-batch production. This requires a greater number of changeovers between different product batches, so manufacturers must streamline the changeover process as much as possible to increase uptime and, ultimately, profitability. Handling product variations, packaging sizes and formats is especially challenging if manufacturers need to do more with fewer lines.

As bakers and snack makers look to handle multiple products with a minimum of production lines, flexibility is key to success. Machines that can handle a variety of products with different dimensions and formats, such as multi-application labelers and horizontal flowwrappers, can help manufacturers maximize line flexibility. Modular processing equipment enables even greater flexibility because it allows manufacturers to swap out components during cleaning to speed changeover. Modularity also eases the repair process, reducing downtime.

With FSMA fast approaching, it is also critical that baking and snack manufacturers prepare to comply with the impending regulations. The main purpose of the new law is to prevent food safety issues before they occur. The first deadline has to do with a set of new rules governing preventive controls for human and animal food set to be finalized and published Aug. 30. Depending on the business, compliance is required within one to three years.

To achieve compliance and prevent recalls, bakers and snack makers can seek out robotics and analysis software as helpful solutions. Analysis software detects and rejects products with contaminants and defects while simultaneously verifying seal integrity, fill level, mass measurement and component count across different products and production lines without requiring manual changeovers. Robots also eliminate human risks such as contamination from hair, bodily fluids, sweat or blood.

Baking and snack manufacturers wanting to overcome challenges in small-batch production, FSMA compliance and package material selection can find a wide range of technologies and resources at Pack Expo Las Vegas. In addition to seeing the latest processing and packaging innovations all in one place, attendees will benefit from conveniently located Innovation Stage presentations. The free educational program will offer updates on breakthrough technologies and best practices across a variety of applications. See the full Innovation Stage schedule at

The Center for Trends and Technology (Booth C-4829), sponsored by Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork Program, will bring baking and snack manufacturers up-to-speed on emerging solutions and trends to gain a competitive edge. The center will feature presentations and interactive kiosks to educate attendees about new technologies that can improve and accelerate the supply chain.

Registration is $30 through Sept, 14, when it increases to $100. For more information and to register, visit

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