Fast-paced lifestyles of the working class and a growing number of Millennials demanding on-the-go options are two contributing factors to the rise in the ready-to-eat (RTE) prepared foods market with a projected CAGR of 7.2% between 2016-2026. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
What exactly classifies a product as RTE? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a ready-to-eat product is defined as “animal or plant derived food that is cooked, frozen, washed, cooked for hot holding, cooled, and processed to be consumed directly or after heating.”
Packaging for RTE food products can come in many forms or in a variety of materials including aluminum foils, extruded polyethylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and cellophane. These types of materials offer versatility for keeping food shelf-stable, while utilizing less shelf space and materials than traditional tin cans and many allow for cooking food directly within the package for eating or serving. A common RTE package used for microwaveable soups, sauces, rice and pasta dishes are stand-up pouches. This flexible packaging format is also commonly seen in prepared baby foods, juices, yogurts and wet pet foods.
These newly designed packages raise questions on how to properly make required expiration and identification marks. Consider the following factors:
Packaging substrate – Most common RTE meal packaging is made up of non-porous plastics or foils, meaning your mark either requires ink or ribbon that will adhere to non-porous surfaces for a permanent mark solution
Branding – Consumers value freshness, portion control, and perceived health benefits of these RTE products meaning new creative packaging innovations are necessary to stand out on the shelves. This requires finesse from the manufacturer or packager in strategically placing freshness dates in locations on the product that are easily visible by consumers and maintain permanency without compromising the integrity of the brand packaging
Integration – If your product is packaged via a vertical or horizontal form fill and seal machine, consider marking and coding printers that will most easily integrate into that process to still achieve demanding throughput goals
If you’re a food manufacturer focused on the ready-to-eat meal or snack market, it is critical to have the right partner in place to assist with marking and coding solutions that won’t disrupt your operation. According to the study Ready-to-Eat Food Market, the North American RTE market is forecasted to be valued at $78.73 billion. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
Our experts are ready to speak with you about how our thermal transfer overprinters or continuous inkjet systems can meet your product identification needs.
It is estimated by the US Grocery Manufacturers Association that over half of recalls cost companies over $10M. In addition to the financial implications, recalls for defective products could be harmful to the health of your customers and ultimately damaging to your reputation. These two major factors support the necessity of product identification in the form of date codes, lot codes and batch codes to track and trace in the event of a recall.
Two common automated marking and coding solutions for food packaging are continuous inkjet and laser coding. Which solution best fits your application is dependent on a number of factors. To help you in this evaluation process, we have outlined a few consideration questions:
Continuous Inkjet Considerations
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) can mark onto virtually any substrate type, rounded or flat, ranging from plastic bags, glass jars, metal cans, paper cartons and more. Because of the variety of ink types and colors available, you can achieve a high-contrast mark on nearly any color packaging.
Laser Coding Considerations
Laser, by comparison, creates a permanent mark on most surfaces although not all packaging types will guarantee a high-contrast batch, lot or date code. The etched marks from laser will last, although on clear plastics and glass the coding may not be as easily visible as black ink from CIJ.
Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding Considerations
Accurate batch, date and expiration codes are essential for customers and retailers alike. If your production lines perform multiple changeovers for different products each shift, this leaves room for errors. Leading CIJ and laser solutions have features for storing unique, variable messages and icon-based interfaces that can be operated without extensive training for message creation and retrieval. Reliable, accurate coding methods will keep your line running in uptime and ensure speedy recall of products in that event.
If your products have high retail value, they may be susceptible to counterfeiting. There are internal tracking and security codes that can be made on a product discreetly, that are only visible under certain circumstances by the manufacturer to verify authenticity and product origin. For CIJ, one option is security UV inks that are nearly invisible until exposed to UV light.
The low-contrast, permanent marks created from laser etching are a benefit in the case of anti-counterfeiting codes. Codes can be applied to packaging in an inconspicuous location without compromising the appeal of the packaging design.
These are only a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting between continuous inkjet and laser coding for your food or beverage packaging line. For more information on how coding ties into food safety and traceability, download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
The Container You Choose for Your Brew Determines Which Coding Technology You Should Choose
An excerpt from 2016 Comprehensive Guide to Date and Batch Coding in the Craft Brewing Industry
Different types of technology are needed for printing on your primary (bottle or can) package and on your secondary (outer box) package. Continuous ink jet (CIJ) and laser are the most common options for printing date codes, batch codes, other text, graphics, barcodes, QR codes and other codes onto primary beverage packages.
When selecting a coding system for your primary packaging, the first step is to consider what type of material you will be printing on. Keeping in mind that you can reasonably expect the printer to last five to seven years, what types of packages are you using now and do you plan to use in the years ahead? Bottles can be coded with either laser or CIJ systems. Cans are coded with CIJ technology. This means that a craft brewer who wants to be able to code on both cans and bottles will need a CIJ system.
The next consideration that should factor into your coding technology decision is production volume. Download our free guide to view cost comparisons based on the number of bottles and/or cans you fill per day.
2016 Comprehensive Guide to Date and Batch Coding in the Craft Brewing Industry
As a leading provider of marking and coding technology, Diagraph works with breweries of all sizes across the country to fulfill product traceability needs that can easily scale up for future capacity and complexity. Diagraph manufactures batch coding and date coding technologies that span the entire packaging line -- from primary product to secondary packaging all the way to pallet labeling.
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”
The final step in your production process can often easily be overlooked. After rigorously completing all the upstream processing, packaging and coding processes, the final palletized product seems to be a small step before crossing the finish line. However, labeling at the pallet level is a crucial process for identifying palletized products being shipped to retailers.
Imagine this: You’re completing a custom job for products specific to one regional retail chain. To differentiate the pallets for the custom job from your standard products, you plan on printing the identifying batch information on the license plate label and applying it to the outside of the shrink-wrapped pallet. When the time comes, your shipment is sent to the retailer only to discover that the products sent are not the custom printed containers they ordered. Now not only is your relationship with this retailer tarnished, but you are on the hook for reprinting all of their products at your own cost.
This scenario might sound familiar if you’re still in the business of manually applying labels. Some level of human error is always a risk and it can be a costly one. Ensuring a consistent, accurate label on every pallet that leaves your facility doesn’t have to be a trying task. It is possible to guarantee proper label placement while also avoiding common safety issues often occurring from the entanglement of the labeler in the pallet shrink wrap.
Our pallet labeling experts at Diagraph have complied a helpful guide for assessing automated pallet labelers for your production line. This guide steps through the main questions you should ask when evaluating your pallet labeling automation process and reviews the top areas of consideration you should work through before you make any kind of investment.
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”, here to learn more.
Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process
Ready to Eat Meals are terrifically convenient and, in a world where time is a premium, are part of a growing market. In addition to convenience and taste, Ready to Eat Meal producers look to differentiate themselves from competitors with clever use of packaging. As a result, meal packaging can be found in a variety of substrates; shrink wrap trays, pouches, chip board carton, and plastic cups to name a few.
Ready to Eat Meal producers need to put expiration dates on these various substrates. Although laws vary by state and only baby formula has a federal regulation on “Use By”, “Sell By” or “Best Before” date coding, consumers look for this information before making a purchase. Continuous Inkjet Printing (CIJ) is often the preferred method to achieve date coding. Continuous Inkjet offers high-speed, non-contact marking using solvent based inks to print variable information on a wide variety of substrates.
Efficiency is of utmost importance to food producers and packagers. It is critical for all machinery on a food packaging production line to operate with maximum uptime and reliability. To meet that expectation Linx Printing Technologies introduces their CIJ model 8900. The Linx 8900 was designed with features that keep your coding machine ready to run and running reliably. The 8900 is a CIJ printer capable of printing up to three lines of text, logos and barcodes, and was designed for maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Its stainless steel cabinet boasts an IP55 rating which makes it suitable for a wash-down environment.
Maintenance is a key component with CIJ technology. CIJ printers require cleaning and periodic changes of filters. Keeping a printer and printhead clean is the key to peak performance. The 8900 model has proven Linx components along with new features all designed to run clean and increase uptime.
Like all Linx CIJ printers, the 8900 features a hermetically sealed printhead with no adjustable parts. No adjustments results in more uptime and less risk of damage which could lead to unplanned downtime. The printhead automatically flushes at both start up and shut down which allows you to go up to 100 starts and stops (3 months) without manual cleaning, and delivers strong performance in harsh, dusty or wet environments.
Incorrect fluids refills will shut a coding printer and thus a production line down. Linx is known for their commitment to mess free and mistake proof fluids refills. They’ve taken this commitment to the next level with the introduction of a larger capacity one-touch cartridge fluid refill system. It could not be simpler. Open the front cabinet, insert a cartridge and shut the door. Solvent and Ink cartridges incorporate RFID technology which communicates with the printer to assure proper fluids are being installed. Fluids can be filled while printing.
Also contributing to maximum uptime is the ability for customers to service printers themselves. Filter changes can be predictably scheduled around production time with the use of Easi-Change® Service Modules. Changing out the filters is a simple 15 minute procedure.
The sealed printhead, auto-flushing procedure, cartridge fluid system and the ability to complete your own service maintenance all contribute to the 8900 printers’ ability to be ready to print when you are.
According to a recent PMMI Business Intelligence Report, the meat, seafood, and poultry packing industries are experiencing “a global boom” due to several factors including import and export opportunities expanding into new markets, growth in foodservice, and growth in ready meals. Food producers are rapidly moving to automate processing and packaging to be prepared to meet increased demand and be flexible enough to adapt to changing product coding requirements.
For food producers and processors with small character coding requirements, Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printer family. The 8900 Series is designed for maximum uptime and provides the flexibility to meet the demands of complex food manufacturing plants.
Moving towards an automated continuous inkjet coding solution can solve the following problems commonly found in the meat, poultry, and seafood manufacturing industry:
High manual labor costs: Consumer demand dictates changes in the packaging materials used for meat and seafood products. Flexible and clear packaging for shoppers to verify freshness and quality in-store, smaller portion sizes and clean labeling to indicate product varieties – i.e. GMO-free, grass-fed, etc. – leads to more changeovers and a need to produce high-quality, durable codes on a range of substrates. The costs associated with managing a large manual workforce are cited by many manufacturers in this industry as one of the highest expenses. Manufacturers are looking for automated processes that can be run with little to no training required and an easy-to-understand HMI to make product changeovers as effortless and error-free as possible.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Food safety and sanitation issues: Threats of contamination are a constant worry in the meat, poultry and seafood industries. To integrate new automated machinery requires that the process reduces human handling and has clean-in-place and washdown capabilities.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Maintenance downtime: Manufacturers want to continue to increase their throughput to fulfill growing demand. To keep production going, predictive maintenance features are essential in preventing unexpected shut downs for repairs, printhead cleanings or fluid refills.
Are you facing these challenges in your business? If you’re in need of a date, lot or batch coding printer, the Linx 8900 Series might be the right option to help you efficiently automate your meat, poultry or seafood packing operation. For more information, visit our Linx 8900 Series product specification page or arrange to see it in action by contacting us for a demonstration.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence Report, 2017 Trends Shaping Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging and Processing
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is transforming manufacturing and a whole host of other industries. IIoT connects industrial devices that can monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze data, and leverage that data and connectivity to help you make smarter, faster and more effective business decisions.
Chances are, you’re already automating parts of your business -- but IIoT takes automation to a whole new level. Two major IIoT trends to watch for in 2020, according to Mobidev, are wireless connectivity and predictive analytics. If you aren’t leveraging IIoT as part of your marking and coding process, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Centralized printer management software connects wirelessly to your printing and coding equipment, creating a central database so that operators can review printing status and start jobs remotely using their mobile devices – among other capabilities. Centralized printer management software can also track prints and analyze operational history, to deliver valuable insights about your processes.
The robust interconnectedness of IIoT technology such as a centralized printer management system, can innovate the product identification process in a number of ways. For example, imagine being able to run your production processes without having to constantly keep an eye on your coding and labeling equipment.
Some other benefits of centralized printer management software include:
Here’s a checklist of common complexities and pains that manufacturers experience with production. If any of these experiences sound familiar, you could benefit from deploying printer management software in your facility:
Improving manufacturing processes is an ongoing challenge, and IIoT can help. For your marking and coding process, centralized printer management software offers many benefits and seamlessly automates a complex operation.
Take the next step to automating your coding and labeling operations. Try NEXTConnect™ printer management software for free for 90 days. Contact a Diagraph representative today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a trial license.