When making the transition to reclosable packaging, the modification to a production line can be as simple as adding a foot or so of space. And while the technology does vary based on the needs of the baker, there isn’t a risk to the speed of a line when adding reclosable options.

“It should have little to no impact whatsoever,” said Ron Cardey, senior vice president of customer engagement, Kwik Lok. “The machinery that we have designed over the years has been specifically designed to work at the speed of the baggers that come before it.”

Mitch Lindsey, senior sales account manager, Burford Corp., agreed.

“We have not seen anything going through baggers and slicers that we cannot keep up with on our end with  the closure,” he said. “So right now, the limitations are upstream.”

All a baker needs to modify their packaging is a little more room.

“What we see is line space,” Mr. Cardey said. “In bakeries, we tend to put a whole lot of stuff in as small of a footprint as possible and so you have to be cognizant of how much space you have between your baggers and your closers.”

Kwik Lok’s laser stitch technology was specifically designed to have only a 12-inch space requirement.

“Almost every single bakery I am familiar with has 12 inches of space,” Mr. Cardey said. “It’s also recognizing what the average bakery has and fitting your solution in that size space.”

There are many ways to reduce losses in margin during the initial stages of the transition period, as well.

“I think one of the keys there is to get your reclosable packaging system done offline,” said Dennis Gunnell, president, Formost Fuji.

Formost Fuji has a reclosable system that allows its flowwrapper to be added to build the reclosable package as the system is run. It also provides rolls of film with reclosable features already built in. Though this does require a higher expense on a per-package basis, it also allows the baker to see if they will gain an advantage from offering that kind of packaging to consumers.

“It’s a way during the transition period to really find out the value of reclosability without making the large capital equipment purchase right out of the gate,” Mr. Gunnell said.

Another method many bakeries use is transitioning gradually, beginning with hand-applying, then moving to semi-automatic machines and eventually getting to the point where they are investing in automatic lines, Mr. Cardey said.

“When having an automatic line with reclosability, they are increasing their margins through efficiencies,” he said. “When 100% of the product coming out of the oven gets put in a bag and gets closed, that’s a good day at the bakery.”

Sealstrip offers a zero-capital investment, pre-
applied reclosable feature, as well as providing various capital-per-package cost features in their seals.

“This gives bakers the opportunity to choose a reseal based on their priorities and their package,” said Heather Chandler, president, Sealstrip.

Another key factor bakers must consider is how employees will fit into the modified production line.

“Any time you add another step, another function, another application on your line, especially something that needs some technical knowledge like this does, you’re making your line more complex and more difficult for your operators to keep things running smoothly,” Mr. Gunnell said. “You have to be honest and look at your employees and say, ‘If I add this step, am I going above their ability or no?’ ”

Even so, he added, some reclosable features are more complicated than others.

“There are other pieces of equipment, whether it’s a proof box or a mix bowl or things upstream from a bagger that are much more complicated than a simple closing machine,” Mr. Cardey said. “A solution has to work within all of the confines of the customer, and that’s space, budget and labor. There are a lot of variables, and we’ve worked really hard over the years to try to make it as simple as possible.”

Mr. Lindsey said that perpetual development in technology is what keeps it suited to the baker’s needs.

“The technology itself continues to change on a daily basis,” he said. “The designs of the equipment have to keep up with that and be able to maintain that degree of useability and be user-friendly at the same time for operators, so it is a constant change.”

Continuous innovation is a factor that benefits the bakery’s output as well as the ease of use for the operator.

“It’s gone from years ago of basically a mechanical machine of chains and sprockets to today with servo motors and belts where there are no timings,” Mr. Lindsey said. “It’s gone from machines that ran 45 packages a minute to today where they’re at upward of 100 packages a minute. It is a continuous improvement.”

This article is an excerpt from the August 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Reclosability, click here.