You are here: Home News Flexible flowrapping solutions proving fruitful for food sectors

Flexible flowrapping solutions proving fruitful for food sectors

Oct 03, 2013 05:16 PM

In today's global marketplace retailers are demanding that suppliers have certain packaging systems in place

In today’s global marketplace retailers are demanding that suppliers have packaging systems in place that not only protect the integrity and offer great presentation of goods, but can also accelerate the process in getting them to store shelves and offer prolonged shelf life.

Whether it’s wrapping summer fruit or indulgent chocolates, flexibility and speed is key in the food industry, with many companies turning to automated systems that can safely wrap a whole range of different shaped products in any configuration, from confectionery, cereal bars, biscuits, cakes and morning goods to noodles, crisps and snacks.

Chocolate, for example, is traditionally flow wrapped but the added option of cold-seal technology, has helped to increase packaging speeds because the pressure method of sealing is more beneficial than heat sealing for temperature sensitive products, ensuring that when unwrapped, chocolate keeps that satisfying, audible snap when chunks of the bar are broken off

Many supermarkets are also making flowrapping their preferred packaging of choice for hard fruit. If this trend continues fresh produce suppliers, who have relied on polybags and manual handling in the past, will have to invest in flowrappers if they are to remain competitive when dealing with high street chains – but there are cost advantages to be had from making the move.

Some growers in Kent are reaping the benefits from flowrapping solutions after a leading fruit packing company turned to Ulma Packaging for a bespoke Atlanta tray-less flowrapper for packing apples and pears when told by a major customer that flow wrap was its pack of choice.

Cottage Farms, which has been growing and packaging fruit for over 50 years, is passing on the savings it is making to its 22 English growers and is committing to another Atlanta machine to keep pace with a bulging order book. The Atlanta wraps apples in formats such as 2 x 2, 3 x 2, 4 x 2 and importantly 4 x 1 with or without trays, all on the same machine.

The business packs and supplies top fruit direct to one of the UK’s largest retailers. Since switching to flowrapping from polybags the company has more than doubled its output. It is currently wrapping between 40 and 45 packs per minute but by taking the option of an automated in-feed could boost throughput to up to 60+ with the new machine.

Another key benefit, says Cottage Farms owner Chris Browning, is the ability to print required information directly onto the flow wrap pack itself – much more efficient than having to deploy staff to apply individual labels as was the case with polybags – plus improved pack presentation. 

Also benefiting from the Atlanta equipment is award-winning A C Goatham & Son. The company supplies a huge range of apples to most of the big supermarket names, including its exclusive own brand and home-grown Zari® variety. It is making a significant investment in a new pack house and is purchasing two more of the machines for its Rochester facility.

Company partner, Ross Goatham, said the cost per kilo in labour is much less for one of Ulma’s flowrapping machines compared to a manual polybag operation.

Suitable for large, medium and smaller fruit growers, flowrapping systems can be used for the tray-less packing of a cross-range of fresh produce, which will allow some producers to have the option of using just one system for all their production as it can also be configured to run with conventionally filled punnets from a de-nester.

In addition to providing a fully flexible bespoke solution, pre-printed roll stock film is used to make the bags, which can subsequently be labelled and coded immediately prior to flowrapping. This facilitates labelling to flat film – avoiding uneven or wrinkled surfaces after wrapping thus enhancing the pack appearance.

Ulma has also launched a new horizontal flow wrapper specifically designed for fresh produce and confectionery. The FR 305 is a high integrity, pillow-pack machine making it ideal for durable and non-durable items. Its state-of-the-art PC processor stores up to 99 different packaging profiles, enabling a high level of flexibility for different product changeovers.

Key features include two independent motors which are synchronised electronically, easy service access and left to right operating direction. The standard in-feed conveyor is two metres in length, which is suitable for most food applications. However, there are also bespoke options, for those packaging unusual sized products. Other innovations include an easy access reel holder to simplify the loading of heavy film rolls.

Innovative flowrapping technology like Ulma’s offers food sectors fully integrated solutions that are highly productive and efficient to meet the growing demand from retailers for extended shelf life, great commercial visibility and speed to market.