No longer is it the case that snacks are packaged specifically for children’s lunch boxes. Today, the snack market is heavily geared towards adults with 94% of adults snacking at least once a day and 50% snacking 2 to 3 times a day.* Snack producers are tasked with changing traditional packaging to address a different kind of consumer.
To stay on top of fluctuating snack market trends, food companies find they need to develop new packaging such as single-serve packs, convenient on-the-go solutions, and sustainable “green” packaging. Aside from creating a trendy and appealing packaging aesthetic, snack packaging frequently requires variable codes such as “Best By” or expiration dates. With consumers growing more and more health-conscious, some code requirements include allergen information, genetic modification information, and country of origin.
Many snack food companies make use of continuous ink jet (CIJ) printing technology to meet these coding requirements. CIJ is cost- effective and has a wide range of fluids to ensure coding adhesion and legibility on both porous and non-porous packaging like cardboard, plastics, metal, glass, or flexible packaging. At a minimum, your CIJ equipment must be able to produce legible and durable date, lot, and identification codes on a variety of substrates. However, there are other key features to look for when selecting a continuous ink jet printer to keep your snack packaging operations in uptime by minimizing maintenance and human errors including:
Given the wide variety of packages and product types at snack food manufacturers, the flexibility offered by CIJ is also considered an appealing benefit. Leading systems’ printheads can be used in any orientation with 360 degree printhead positioning and many can be moved from line to line to accommodate many shapes, sizes, and levels of packaging.
Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series CIJ printers to help our customers produce a long lasting, quality mark on a variety of packaging materials. The 8900 Series is designed with many smart, easy-to-use features to keep your production line up and running. Live chat with one of our equipment specialists to learn more. Or, read up on the latest innovations in snack food packaging in our latest whitepaper.
2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging
For sachet or stick pack packaging, the Allen MLi-TE multi-lane thermal transfer printer is a top solution for coding individual expiration dates or lot codes upstream. Multiple lanes can print quickly and simultaneously, utilizing one ribbon to avoid multiple consumables running out at various, unsynchronized times. The Allen MLi’s configurable design requires only one controller and one consumable for up to 12-lanes of print, greatly simplifying packaging machine maintenance and reducing downtime.
Once your packet is coded, sachet or stick pack packaging requires a specialized system to form the packaging receptacle, fill the product into the packet, and seal the ends to secure the product for transport. These systems are known as FFS - form, fill, and seal machines - and they come in two different varieties: (1) Vertical (VFFS) and (2) Horizontal (HFFS). Vertical uses gravity to aide in the filling process, where horizontal is generally high speed by using mechanical methods for filling.
Today we’re doing a Q&A with an expert stick pack OEM, Viking Masek, to cover the key points to evaluate when selecting stick pack equipment to integrate with a marking and coding solution like the Allen MLi-TE.
Stick pack machines are perfect for packaging a wide variety of powder, granular, and liquid products. Powder products can be dense, fine, loose, and particulate materials. Liquids can be substances of differing viscosities including water-like fluids, gels, and pastes.
Stick packaging is very popular in many industries, especially with powdered drink mixes, liquid and powder pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, and granular ingredients like sugar. Contract packagers in the medical and dietary supplement industries also highly favor stick packaging equipment.
Single serve and controlled dosage packaging is very popular with todays’ consumers, spanning across many generational demographic groups. Millennials and young professionals love stick packs because they are portable, convenient, and fit unobtrusively into their busy lives. The aging population uses stick packs because they are lightweight and often feature easy-open options like tear notches, making it easier for those with limited dexterity to handle and use the product. Moms and dads are attracted to stick packs because they can easily feed their children with a single, easy to open, controlled serving size package that requires little clean up and virtually no utensils.
When it comes to selecting the proper stick packaging equipment for your unique product, there are experts available to guide you every step of the way. However, there are a few major considerations they will take into account when recommending machinery. These include:
All stick pack machines can utilize the following product fillers:
Stick pack machines can be built to accommodate different stick widths (most popular are 23 mm and 35 mm), convenient designs including pour spouts and specialty die-cut shapes, and can also feature easy-open options like tear notches and micro-perforations. Available with IQ/OQ pharma construction, stick packaging machinery is a great solution for pharmaceutical packaging.
Often stick pack clients desire to print expiration dates or lot codes on their stick packaging. There are many multi-lane printing options available, including Diagraph’s new Allen MLi-TE multi-lane thermal transfer printer.
First, do your research. This can be done via the internet, on the phone, or in person through your professional and personal networks. Attend industry trade shows and strive to see available equipment in person. When you’ve narrowed down your packaging OEM choices and are looking for more details in the form of a proposal, prepare by defining key points the equipment manufacturer will need so to provide the most accurate configuration for your specific needs. The key items that must be defined differ from powder to liquid products.
Remember that with most capital purchases, and especially when it comes to a piece of equipment you will rely on for a vital part of your production process, you often get what you pay for. Consider not only the initial purchase price of the piece of machinery, but total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO will include costs for things like training, maintenance and parts, installation, and tax implications.
Located in Southeast Wisconsin, Viking Masek manufactures, sells, and services flexible packaging machinery for food and non-food industries worldwide. Our focus on packaging innovation and investments in both technology and people makes us uniquely poised to take on unique packaging equipment projects, both large and small. Have questions about flexible packaging? Contact us today for a free Packaging Equipment Consultation.
Increasing in popularity among big box chains is retail-ready packaging (RRP). A retail-ready package refers to secondary packaging that is branded appropriately to be able to move to retail shelves in a quick, “one touch” movement. RRP should be intentionally designed to self-contain individually packaged products, this eliminates the need for stock workers to unpack and individually display each product. This comes as a huge advantage to the big box retailers like Walmart or Kroger, because it reduces labor by cutting out the need for workers to unpack or hang individually packaged items. Effort is reduced to five simple phases: pack, ship, stock, display, shop.
For the manufacturers or co-packers packaging the product, the challenge of retail ready packaging is having the corrugate case function as both a shipping case and display piece. Considerations here would be having product flavor and count information, SKUs, barcodes, lot codes and expiration dates visible while creating a package that is appealing to consumers on a marketing level. Making the switch to RRP may be an investment, but it has been proven to pay off in terms of keeping good relationships with big box retailers like Walmart. Simply put: If you make your product easy to stock, retailers will continue to stock it again and again.
The key characteristics of retail-ready packaging are:
Changes in the market are directly influencing the rise manufacturers are seeing in the demand for RRP. As larger chains begin to open smaller, neighborhood stores with fewer employees, the speed in which products can get to shelves grows in importance. The Millennial generation is also waiting until later in life to begin having a family, so smaller portioned packaging continues to be purchased far more often. Millennials are also drivers of online grocery shopping fulfillment. Well-implemented retail-ready packaging makes it easier for the warehouse staff fulfilling the online orders to quickly identify and select the correct items to ship out.
For these reasons and many others, retail-ready packaging is a strategy for retailers to boost sales. In order to move more product, this means your packaging production will have to appease retail distributors while still meeting coding and labeling requirements for consumers and traceability. Our experts can help you strategize your operations around this RRP trend. Reach out to us today to discuss what we’re seeing in the retail market and how we can partner with you to make a retail-ready packaging strategy a profitable endeavor for your company.
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.
Companies rely on engineers or technicians to keep production lines up and running. These job functions are essential to hitting production targets, so it is key that their skill level on equipment is proficient. When making the decision to replace this equipment, the amount of time and money that will have to be invested in training your labor is a major deciding factor.
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) technology is most often the technology of choice for manufacturers to apply variable information such as lot, batch and expiration dates on their products. CIJ printers have relatively low capital costs and print in any orientation on most materials at high speeds. It is very common to find one or two CIJ printers on each packaging production line. For these customers, Diagraph offers the Linx model 8900 Series CIJ printers that require minimal need for line operators to learn new procedures when the units are introduced to the production line.
Traditionally, CIJ printers require the attention of skilled labor to keep printers clean (which is critical to operation) or to tweak print quality at the printhead level. The industry-leading 8900 Series designs can be operated and maintained with minimal touches due to the following features:
If you are considering replacing existing CIJ equipment and need it to operate with minimal intervention, the simple operation and maintenance of the Linx 8900 Series printer makes it the right piece of equipment for you. Get our FREE comparison datasheet to understand how the Linx 8900 Series stacks up against competitor CIJ printers.
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.
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) is the technology of choice for food packaging coding as the solvent based inks adhere to a variety of materials like cartons, plastics, films, foils, metal and glass. CIJ is ideal for food packaging in that it offers high speed, non-contact small character printing and enables food processors to incorporate inkjet codes into their functional safety and traceability processes.
Companies that produce food products are very aware of the financial and public health risks of a recall and therefore understand the necessity of being able to track products through the supply chain. For added food safety security, continuous inkjet printers can utilize specialty functional inks:
Thermochromic inks are developed for the canning industry and show a color change effect when processed through a retort or autoclave process. In addition to visual confirmation of successful canning it is a robust ink that penetrates thin coatings of oil and grease and resists removal by oils, waxes, fats and varnishes.
For secure coding of high-end products subject to counterfeiting or for products and packaging that require discrete codes for internal track and trace, identifying origin or verifying authenticity, there are inks that are nearly invisible to the naked eye but fluoresce under UV light. These fast drying, solvent based inks are water resistant once dry.
Traceability of food product is key to a company’s ability to react to a recall. In addition to providing coding technology that allows companies to trace product, Diagraph and Linx offer the following specialty functional coding inks that enhance food safety:
Linx Thermochromic 1281 or 1291
Our choice for fully functional, easy to use inkjet coders are the Linx 8900 Series line of printers. The Linx 8900 Series inkjet printers provide high quality batch, date, lot and expiration codes which are critical components for supply chain traceability. The Linx models are also durable workhorses in wash down environments and are easy-to-use featuring a robust, sealed printhead, one-touch fluid refills, a highly visible touch screen user interface and point-of-print viscosity control. The Linx 8900 Series line of printers support both thermochromic and UV fluorescent ink applications.
Continuous inkjet is just one option for adding essential date codes, lot codes and batch codes to your food and beverage products. Want to learn more about how your choice of coding solution contributes to food safety and traceability? Download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding