Closures, the unsung heroes of the production line, make all the difference. Everything before the closure will be undone if the closure itself isn’t tight enough to keep the product fresh before it reaches the final consumer. Keeping the product fresh and contained are the closure’s primary jobs, but closures also provide a place for bakeries to print traceability or expiration information.

Twist ties, clips and tape represent the main closures used for bread, roll and bun bags; however, zipper closures are growing in popularity for flatbreads and sandwich thins as the market expands. To handle zipper bags, Burford Corp., Maysville, OK, developed a sealer/trimmer based on its tamper-evident closure (TEC) system. The new machine seals the bag and trims away the excess material. It is being used for tortillas as well as sandwich and bagel thins packaged in zipper bags.

When choosing which closure to use and the system needed to apply it, a baker first needs to consider the cost and tightness of the closure and then, if the baker wants to code information onto the closure, its printing capability.

According to Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford Corp., consumer preference and regional custom also come into play when choosing closure systems. For example, while the majority of Europe relies on twist ties and clips to secure bread bags, the UK predominately uses tape. Regional style can also affect equipment considerations. Mr. Lindsey said that in South America, which largely uses twist ties, Burford takes into consideration the baker’s preferred spool size when configuring a closure system, providing a different spool-holding assembly.

Beth Radloff, marketing specialist, Bedford Industries, Inc., Worthington, MN, said bakers choose the type of tie material — twist tie, double-wire tin tie or clip tie — and tie application equipment that will work best for their products. Bakers must take into account whether they want to use semi-automated or fully automated closing systems, and Bedford can manufacture tie material to work with most tie machines.

Sanitation and safety also influence bakers’ decisions on which closures to use. If products move through metal detection units after application of the closures, then tape or Kwik Lok clips are materials to consider because they don’t contain metal. Bedford now offers Poly-Twist tie material that is metal free and works well with in-line metal detection said Ms. Radloff. However, other twist ties and double-wire tin ties contain metal, so products closed with these materials need to be sent through a metal detector before the closure is added.

Sustainability also enters the decision about choice of closure style. Kwik Lok’s clips contain no additives or hardeners and are recyclable.

Bakers need to decide whether or not they want to take advantage of the printing capabilities on certain closures. “It’s easy for the consumer to find the pull date and other necessary information right on the closure,” said Hal Miller, vice-president of sales, Kwik Lok. “You aren’t hunting around for the print on the bag for codes.”

According to Mr. Miller, Kwik Lok’s closure systems can print on the clip with cold foil imprinting, continuous ink-jet, thermal printing or the company’s latest printing development, laser printing.

Ms. Radloff said Bedford offers plastic/paper combination twist tie to accommodate printing needs.

Bakers have the option to purchase pre-printed tie material with date codes or a message for the consumer, or they can add a printer to the production line to imprint on the tie.

At the end of the day and the end of the production line, slices have to be clean cut, bags applied correctly, and closures need to keep the product fresh.