Sep 18, 2018 03:20 PM

ULMA Packaging UK’s patented Venturi System has the potential to be a game changer in the UK loose leaf salad market from the moment it was launched, according to Vertical Form Fill Seal (VFFS) Business Manager, Steve Brooks:

When was ULMA’s Venturi System first introduced in the UK?

Developed by ULMA Packaging in Spain, the Venturi System has been successfully marketed in Southern Europe. Since its introduction in August 2017, the technology has been fully trialled and made its mark in the niche fresh herb sector, as a solution for vertically packaging produce without damaging or bruising delicate leaves.  With proven results in this specialist area, based on reducing product handling and film waste, ULMA’s patented solution is now being considered by the almost £1 billion British salad market as an opportunity to make significant savings throughout the packaging process.

 How does the Venturi System work?

The ULMA-patented Venturi System has been designed to reduce the risks posed to delicate herbs and salad leaves by manual handling during the packaging process. The Venturi ring creates a vacuum under the produce and accelerates it down the tube. This means that product is pulled down to the bottom of the bag (with air) at speed before then sealing the pack shut. This process mitigates damage, as the produce requires no manual handling. In comparison, the forming tube of conventional packaging machinery can impair the quality of delicate produce and cause bruising.

 ULMA-patented, but is it a game-changer?

The Venturi System is a truly unique packaging solution in the UK market, which offers multiple efficiency savings. The packing of salad leaf has typically been carried out using a vertical machine, owing to the weight of the product. However, using this method there is a greater risk of re-work required for bags with product stuck in the seal, estimated at between 7-10%.

The likelihood of experiencing an insufficient seal ultimately restricts the output that can be achieved by salad leaf producers, resulting in higher repackaging costs. To overcome this, some businesses use the ultrasonic sealing method, which tightly closes the packaging through the product if necessary leading to a reduced re-work of less than 1%.

For customers who wish to reduce the risk of trapping product in the seal, which can degrade and blacken the product and look unattractive to consumers at the point of purchase, the ULMA Venturi System is ideal. With the Venturi system, the product accelerates to the bottom of the bag leaving the seal area clear, meaning there is far less chance of the product becoming stuck in the end seal - this provides more benefits to the customer, including:

-       Decreasing the film usage, because there is less need for re-work.

-       Reducing the bag length.

-       Overall lessening the film waste going to land fill.

 Are there any further savings that can be made?

The unique packaging style of the Venturi System means that the product is pulled further inside the packaging during sealing. As a result, the bag length and width could easily be reduced in order to further save money and materials throughout the process.

Supermarkets can employ the Venturi to reduce plastic film waste, saving money and the amount of plastic used. Given the current environmental focus of a growing number of supermarkets, distributors and manufacturers, it is becoming increasingly pertinent to demonstrate this.

Can the Venturi System increase packaging output?

Currently, the only alternative to packaging delicate products such as fresh leaf salad, is a flow wrap machine. This type of machinery can typically produce up to 25 packs per minute. However, ULMA’s Venturi System has been optimised for speed and efficiency, running at a rate in excess of 50 bags per minute.

Conventionally, the use of a flow wrap machine requires between 10-16 employees to place the product onto scales and a conveyor belt, while someone else may be tasked with tightly compacting the product in to the bag to ensure it all fits.

Alternatively, the Venturi System allows businesses to remain proactive in an increasingly turbulent labour market. Requiring just two employees on the higher outputs - one to load the machine with the customer’s product, and the other to operate the system - this allows staff to be redeployed to areas where they are needed the most, ensuring organisations that employ the Venturi System are naturally more resilient to labour shortages.

The fresh leaf salad industry is often far too exposed to the risks of labour shortages, material cost increases and damage to produce. The Venturi System is a unique game-changer as it mitigates against many of these risks and provides efficiency savings to customers; ultimately allowing them to maximise output, reallocate staff and decrease packaging costs.