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.
What: The US food industry is the leader for flexible packaging with the market continuing to grow with an expected 3.9% CAGR and valuation of $392 billion by 2023. Flexible packaging currently accounts for 19% of the packaging market – second only to corrugated paper. Advancements in slider closures, fitments, and improved barrier properties are driving preferences amongst both manufacturers and consumers.
Why: The flexible packaging market has taken off due to a shift towards sustainability and consumer-friendly packaging. The adoption of flexible packaging is growing amongst manufacturers due to the ability to form flexible packaging on the spot from raw materials – saving time, cost, materials waste, and space. With advances in the recyclability and space savings when discarded compared to rigid packaging, consumers are developing a growing preference for flexible packaging options while the entire supply chain from manufacturer to retailer to consumer is realizing the extended shelf life benefits of innovative resealable closures.
Who: CPG and pharmaceutical manufacturers are responding to consumer demands by innovating with flexible packaging options for their products.
Industries of Interest: Food, Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical, Personal Care
• Convenient packaging, excellent barrier properties, and sustainable materials are all factors contributing to the continued growth of flexible packaging in the coming years, ProFood World (https://www.profoodworld.com/bi-library-article/us-flexible-packaging-reach-392-billion-2023?oly_enc_id=8131B4747801B1S)
• Growth of flexible packaging brings demand for innovation, Packaging World (https://www.packworld.com/growth-flexible-packaging-brings-demand-innovation)
• Seafood to drive growth in the converted flexible packaging sector through 2023, Seafood Source (https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/processing-equipment/seafood-to-drive-growth-in-the-converted-flexible-packaging-sector-through-2023)
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The importance of packaging compliance in the supply chain cannot be overlooked. Consumer packaged goods need to meet packaging compliance to adhere to global and government regulations and retailer standards for product safety. When manufacturers fail packaging compliance, they can be subject to significant penalties and fines, suffer loss of customers and reputation, suffer supply chain inefficiencies, and more.
In this blog series, we’ll break down how to achieve packaging compliance, naming four key considerations, and examining each of those aspects in detail.
There are a number of different product identification solutions available to manufacturers, such as:
It’s important to pick the best marking and coding technology for the product in question in order to achieve packaging compliance. By taking the time to understand print message and application requirements, manufacturers can begin to compare compatible product identification methods and equipment.
Ensuring manufacturing codes are printed on products is not enough by itself to achieve packaging compliance. The codes need to be checked to make sure they are present, accurate, and scannable. All three levels of message validation must be met to achieve packaging compliance.
If the code didn’t print on the package, packaging compliance is not achieved. If the code is present but the information printed is not accurate, packaging compliance is not achieved. If the code is present and accurate but is not scannable, packaging compliance is not achieved.
Incorrect date, batch, or barcodes applied to products can also be a result of human error. However, using a central database of product coding information to automate print message creation can minimize instances of user error. Companies can do the heavy lifting when it comes to variable print message editing and selection by utilizing:
Managing the integration of data down to the production floor allows for manufacturers to seamlessly and efficiently ensure the right information is being printed on the right products – ultimately helping manufacturers achieve automated compliance.
Achieving guaranteed packaging compliance requires more than selecting the most optimal product coding technology and the right level of message validation. To ensure high quality real-time manufacturing codes are printed consistently, proactive material handling best practices need to be in place. Improper material handling can cause codes to print incorrectly and inconsistently.
Proper material handling when working with coding equipment includes proactive measures such as:
Manufacturers also need material handling reject systems to sort out non-compliant packages. Once non-compliant packages have been identified, manufacturers can correct the packaging and improve their material handling process.
Failing packaging compliance can lead to unpleasant consequences, including supply chain inefficiencies, losing customers, negatively impacting company reputation, and potential fines and penalties from retailers and regulatory agencies. But by keeping these four key considerations in mind, your business can achieve guaranteed packaging compliance.
Have more questions about compliance? Talk with a Diagraph representative today.
Or, read more in-depth to discover what you need to know to select the right solution for your business in our next post, How to Pick the Best Product Identification Solution.
To achieve packaging compliance, manufacturers need more than picking the right product coding technology. Data management and packaging control and automation add another level of sophistication to an operation’s compliance practices.
Incorrect manufacturing codes can be applied to products due to human error or improper material handling practices. But manufacturers can rely on data connectivity and good data management practices to handle variable print message editing and selection.
Data management is part of Industry 4.0 -- by using data management and connectivity to manage data integration on the production floor, manufacturers can automate the correct information being printed on the correct products, which is an important step in ensuring packaging compliance. Specialized printer management software can make this process seamless.
One-way data management allows manufacturers to use existing databases to automatically fill in data for print message formats. The populated codes are sent in real-time directly to the printer. By using a central database to link and populate batch, date, and barcodes, user error can be minimized.
Manufacturers can use two-way data management to receive feedback in real-time that will allow them to improve their operational processes:
Making sure the right manufacturing codes are being printed onto products is one half of the printing process. The other half is to make sure that the packaging substrate is presented consistently to the coding technology to be printed upon. Among other consequences, improper material handling can lead to codes being printed inconsistently and incorrectly.
Material handling measures that can minimize printing errors include:
However, even with these measures in place, incorrectly printed products can still occur. Which is why it is important for material handling reject systems to be in place in order to detect non-compliant products before it reaches the retailer, or more so, the consumer. Packages with incorrect codes printed on them can sometimes have the opportunity to be reworked with the correct manufacturing codes instead of being scrapped completely, which is a less than ideal situation from a production throughput and financial standpoint.
Some features of reject systems can include:
And by evaluating the material handling processes regularly, the processes can be improved over time so fewer packages fail packaging compliance in the first place.
For manufacturers to achieve packaging compliance, implementing data management and good material handling processes are recommended, along with using the right product identification solution.
Working with a partner that has an understanding of material handling best practices and how to utilize data management to optimize operations can help manufacturers better achieve packaging automation. Manufacturers should also seek out partners that offer a variety of product identification solutions, support beyond installation of equipment, a network of conveyor and vision system partners to create turnkey solutions and training for maintenance staff. The combination of all these factors can set up manufacturers for success in packaging compliance.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog series on how to achieve packaging compliance. Check out the other posts here:
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.