All food and drink producers envision a certain type of packaging when they conceive a new product or a rebrand, but what they actually end up going with is often far different.
Why is this? Well, the packaging world is incredibly innovative, and technology moves fast. Producers are faced with an array of packaging solutions, particularly at trade shows, so making the decision can be difficult: “What’s the best solution for my product?”
Bespoke machinery and production lines can always be tweaked to suit the needs of the producer, so (if money is no object) your options are practically limitless. But whether you’re a small producer looking to automate your production for the first time, or you’re just looking to improve your existing operation, there’s an ideal solution out there for you.
One of the most common types of packaging we see in the shops is flow wrapping; everything from crisp packets and individual chocolate bars to red and green pepper combo packs and tortilla wraps are packaged this way. It’s arguably the best packaging solution for fresh items which aren’t then put into a box as packaging designs and branding can be easily integrated.
Flow wrapping is essentially a process in which the product is wrapped in film. Crisp packets, for example, are made by covering a selection of crisps in a sheet of film before making a ‘crimp’ seal at the top and bottom and a ‘fin’ seal running the length of the packet. It keeps the produce fresh and protected.
While certain types of food products naturally lend themselves to being packaged using flow wrapping, it’s often overlooked for other items. Fresh baguette, bread loaf and cake packaging lines can use flow wrapping too, as well as fruit and veg distributors.
Vertical form fill and seal (VFFS)
A rising trend in the food-to-go market is the use of vertical form fill and seal packaging. Niche products and healthy snacks use this method a lot – whereby plastic bags are constructed out of a flat roll of plastic film which are then filled with the product and sealed. Unlike flow wrapping, the only seal is at the top.
From gourmet coffee beans to barley and cereals, beef jerky to nuts and raisins, this form of packaging offers great presentation alongside superb quality. Automating the process instead of putting your items together manually, like all packaging processes, will have a massive impact on your productivity and product shelf life.
While tray sealing machines are commonly used to package items such as meat, fresh fruit and veg (think of the packaging for bacon, chicken breasts and closed-cup mushrooms), the automated process used can also be applied to food-to-go items. Essentially, a tray is automatically filled with the produce before a film lid is tightly sealed over the top.
Both high-volume and low-volume producers of popular items such as sandwiches, yoghurt pots, fresh olives or dips and microwavable ready meals should consider using tray sealing as their packaging solution.
Banding or strapping solutions deliver fresh produce in an easy to open pack consisting of a tray and plastic lid adjoined together on one side, then sealed shut using ultra-sonic banders (usually just a strong branded sticker). Think of fresh muffins or doughnuts, an individual desert-size piece of cheesecake, or even a fresh salad pot.
This type of packaging is often overlooked, but it has some fantastic benefits, such as raising productivity, reducing your costs and simplifying the handling process – without skimping on the branding or attractiveness of the product’s presentation.
This is one of the simplest and most convenient ways of packaging food products, and is sometimes essential to preserve meat, seafood and cheese. Vacuum packing machines work by automatically placing items into a plastic film package, removing all air from the inside of the pack and sealing it. By removing oxygen, the growth of bacteria and fungi is severely hindered.
Unlike some other forms of packaging, vacuum packing does not require large machinery. For smaller producers, versatile compact vacuum sealers can sit comfortably on a desk top, while larger units are also available for large producers.
Similar to vacuum packing (only without the need for oxygen to be removed), shrink wrapping machines wrap a product in polymer plastic film before applying heat so that it shrinks tightly over the product.
It’s commonly used on things like fresh pizza, cases of canned or bottled drinks and individual items of veg. There are fantastic solutions available for both the smaller volume markets and large producers, ranging from collating lines for sales packaging with a high cost benefit ratio, universal feeders and labelling heads.
So whatever it is you currently envision for your packaging, don’t be afraid to explore alternative avenues. The best solution for your food product is out there, and when you find it, that’s a wrap.