Formost Fuji
Flowwrappers automatically adjust to various products for increased efficiencies on the line. Source: Formost Fuji

Popularity of portions
As BFY foods infiltrate the c-store channel, food producers must consider the demand for single-serve portions. That means creating items that can be taken on the go and eaten entirely before the package is thrown away.

“Where we see the baking industry going is on the one hand more portion packs, where people eat the whole thing in one sitting and do not reclose it,” said Kelly Meer, product manager, flowwrapping and robotics, Bosch. “On the other hand, for family packs and sharable snacks, we see a rise in reclosable packaging like doy zip bags, which allow protection of contents for future consumption as well as easy opening and reclosing features.”

Eli’s newest desserts, the Butter Tart and Salt Caramel Tart, are packaged to accomplish this goal. They are flowwrapped then placed in an individual custom window sleeve merchandiser. The tarts ship frozen and are merchandised refrigerated or ambient.

The single-serve trend puts pressure on production lines to make smaller items in larger varieties at the same rate as their larger counterparts. Think of producing four bite-size pieces as opposed to one full-size bar. Doing this brings complications to the process line, and food manufacturers should know that it takes more than just changing production flow to accommodate the change.

“Bakers and snack food producers are asking for packaging equipment that is simple to operate, flexible and easy to clean and allows easy changeover from one product to another,” Mr. Evangelista said. “Gone are machines that can only handle one type of product. Customers demand flexibility.”

Line flexibility meets the demand for variety and smaller portioning. Mr. Gunnell advised producers to design flexibility into a new line.

“If you know the different products you are going to make, it’s much easier than going back later and trying to retrofit something,” he said.

Mr. Gunnell explained that, in addition to speed, product handling is a vital consideration.

The Formost Fuji Alpha 7 horizontal flowwrapper features bottom film feeds for positive transfer of products from the servo-drive infeed conveyor to the film tube. The wrapper is designed with different product sizes, shapes and ingredients in mind.

“We have parts that are specifically designed to be changeable, not fixed,” he added. “Our adjustable former is designed to modify package width and height to match the product without taking the part off and changing it.”

Production lines need to be flexible and capable of running multiple products to accommodate the demand for variety. At Bosch, the company tries to break the dependency on dedicated production lines. Where a cracker line used to be set up to produce one item in huge volume, the demand today is for flexible lines that make multiple products and can efficiently feed them into smaller single-serve packaging.

“Often customers think about the end product coming out of a flowwrapper, but it’s about how we can be flexible and automate getting it into that package,” Mr. Meer said. “That can be more of a challenge than the overwrapping.”