Flexibility within packaging systems remains of major importance
Devising an approach to confectionery packaging systems that offer manufacturers within the confectionery and bakery sectors flexibility with their systems is a key consideration, writes Edward Smagarinsky, Group Product Manager, at tna
With a variety of tempting products on offer, confectionery aisles in supermarkets cater for a diverse range of age groups and taste preferences. At the same time, however, the healthy eating trend continues to influence what shoppers are putting in their baskets and as a result, confectionery is evolving to keep up with growing demand for moments of indulgence without the guilt associated with sweet treats. This has led to the emergence of confections made from fruit pulp or juices, gluten and gelatin-free candies, as well as low sugar, sugar alternative and organic options in a bid to need the demand of health enthusiasts.
Meeting nutritional guidelines
While consumer influence is undoubtedly a driving force in the evolution of the confectionery market, health organisations are also putting a spotlight on snacking in a bid to reduce the impact of unhealthy choices when it comes to convenience foods. Many of the initiatives put forward focus on regulated portion control. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that governments regulate food advertising and marketing to change perceptions of ‘normal’ portion size and healthy food options. While the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has also highlighted portion control as an issue, stating that norms for what constitutes a suitable amount to consume are shaped by food portions we routinely encounter in supermarkets. Because of this, the BMJ has suggested regulating the design of manufactured products so that portions are packaged individually. Smaller packaging sizes and single-serve portions are therefore on the rise, appealing to those looking to limit calorie intake and restrict portion sizes.
Packaging healthier portions
Due to the crackdown on portion sizes, the way confectionery is packaged is changing – with a shift from larger share-size bags to single portion packets. In fact, pack sizes ranging from single-serve portions to multi-pack options are now commonplace on a single production line. It is therefore crucial that packaging equipment offers the flexibility to handle the different film sizes required, as well as switch between different formats quickly and easily to keep up with increasing demand. All while keeping packaging and product waste to a minimum and reducing operational and maintenance costs.
Overcoming the packaging challenge
VFFS packaging systems have evolved to support a wider range of confectionery packaging options at even higher speeds. The fact remains though, that bagging speed can be significantly impacted with size and format changes, since components like formers, film rolls and jaws system, must be replaced during production cycles.
A key consideration when switching to smaller bag formats is the jaw system – it must be able to effectively handle the required packet size, including the film width, length, and type. Market-leading VFFS systems offer a wide range of jaw configurations, such as single, double, rotary double, rotary triple and rotary flat to give manufacturers maximum flexibility to handle varying bag sizes and formats. tna’s rotary triple jaw, for example, tends to be suitable for smaller pack sizes and can achieve throughputs in the region of 250 bpm.
tna’s flagship vertical form fill and seal (VFFS) solution, the tna robag 3ci, provides the ultimate in flexibility to handle and switch easily between a variety of bag formats and sizes. This is made possible through a highly ergonomic design that incorporates the tna robag former unload assist, an original and patented feature.
The challenge: Historically, changing out formers can pose a significant challenge for manufacturers. Typically located inside the packaging cabinet, the operator must manually reach in, lift the former and remove it from its saddle. Since the former is not usually ergonomically positioned, this can be a time-consuming process.
The solution: The former unload assist features an innovative pivot arm assembly to facilitate the unloading and replacing of the former faster and easier. The arm swings out from a running position on the support assembly to a 90-degree angle, which means operators can place both hands on the former to lift it without leaning in or twisting the torso. The ability to change out formers using side access, rather than the traditional front access, not only improves product changeover times, but also requires minimal manual effort and reduces the risk of injury.