Food packaging expansion

MeMeMe Inc. of Canada needed to increase production as supermarkets and food service operators were increasing orders for its Marcy’s and private label brands of premium croutons and stuffings.

This was a major expansion for the company as it called for integration of equipment from different suppliers in order to meet specific requirements both packaging and budget.

“The sales and engineering staff at Heat and Control worked hand-in-hand with us to design a system that would meet our operating specifications for throughput, reliability and sanitation, while meeting our budgetary target” recalls Bruce Luczak, MeMeMe’s plant manager.

Heat and Control took on the role as project manager for the project in its entirety, from design to installation and start-up.

Considering the delicate handling required for croutons and the potential for future production growth, a Fastback 90E horizontal motion conveyor, a washdown Ishida RS 14-head computer combination weigher, a Ceia metal detector and a pre-made horizontal pouching machine were used.

The Fastback 90E was selected because of its gentle slow-forward fast-back conveying motion that greatly reduces product damage compared to vibratory conveying.

It also eliminates unscheduled cleaning downtime because coatings do no build up in the conveyor pan.

Fastback conveyors deliver the highest travel rates of any horizontal motion conveyor and efficiently convey heavy loads. Instant stop-start product feed to the Ishida weigher improves packaging efficiency.

The first of its kind in Canada, the Ishida CCW-RS-214W-S/30-WP weigher features washdown construction.

Sized according to MeMeMe’s present anticipated production volumes, the weigher will operate at double the present speed without creating a bottleneck in the production process.

At the discharge of the weigher — the final checkpoint before packaging — croutons pass through a Ceia metal detector.

Metal detection at this point assures that all product has passed every potential location where metal could enter the product stream before it is packaged by a horizontal pouching machine.

Heat and Control worked directly with the supplier to ensure the potential interface issues were addressed prior to equipment arriving on site.

MeMeMe contracted a local vendor to fabricate and install the support platform.

Heat and Control provided drawings and technical assistance to assure trouble-free integration of all components.

“The equipment was delivered on time” explains plant manager Luczak, “and the user-friendly touch screen operator interface on the Ishida scale made training and product integration effortless”.

MeMeMe now produces bag sizes ranging from 125 grams to 680 grams.

“Operating speeds on our 125gram pouch increased over 200% while maintaining an oxygen residual under 1% (products are gas-flushed for extended shelf life)”, says Luczak.

“Giveaway and underweight products have been all but eliminated,” he says.

“We have averaged under 1kg per day total giveaway, or 0.1%, which is down significantly down from our previous levels of 2.5 to 3%.

“Moreover, the versatility of the equipment has enabled us to switch all of our larger food service formats over to this equipment, which had produced significant labour savings,” he adds.

Design features on the equipment allow our sanitation team to easily disassemble and clean the Ishida weigher quickly and thoroughly to meet HACCP requirements.

In fact, the accuracy, reliability and speed of the Ishida scale enable QA, maintenance and supervisory staff to focus on their other duties”.

Packaging to extend product life

The Australian Institute of Packaging will be holding a course on ‘Packaging for Product Life Extension’ in South Australia on Thursday 14 May.

The extension of shelf life using modern packaging techniques plays an important role in food packaging.

The AIP training course will examine a range of integrated technologies with the emphasis on the packaging operation, the materials used and their selection.

The technologies will include modified atmosphere packaging, vacuum and gas packaging, canning and retort pouches, non-thermal processing and aseptic and clean fill packaging, active and smart packaging.

The training course will also examine the development of the use of natural compounds and their impact on packaging and the extension of shelf life.

Ancillary operations such closures, sealing processes including adhesives will be covered together with the use of shelf life indicators.

Environmental issues will also be examined.

Contact AIP below by clicking on the button.

Advanced packaging system slashes costs

When a leading European dried-fruit processing company, Frutos Secos de la Vega of Spain, needed to solve a shelf-life problem, it turned to Hefestus.

The company installed Hercules, its newest packaging system, an automatic modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) sealing machine, based on SLB™ “Shelf Life Booster”, Hefestus’ proprietary packaging technology.

Today, Frutos Secos del la Vega reports impressive cost reduction and extended shelf life of its nut and dried fruit products, and as a result they are successfully targeting new international markets.

The company faced major problems as outcome of its products’ short shelf life, including a large amount of returns as well as discards of expired products.

This was exacerbated by low speed production and short time to market.

“Vacuum packaging could not provide us a satisfying solution,” explains Fernando de la Vega, a partner and senior manager of FSV.

“It could destroy the aesthetic appearance and texture of our products and further slow down the production pace.”

Implementing Hercules, Hefestus’ fastest packaging system, at FSV significantly extended shelf life for all the company’s products, dramatically decreasing returns.

The production line works consecutively with balanced-plans production while providing maximum operative effectiveness.

“Our challenge was to improve product quality by extending shelf life, and to drastically cut production costs,” CEO of Hefestus, Israel, Oded Shtemer, says.

“The new Hercules packaging system is by far the best return on investment of its type in the market today. It can cut human resources costs and increase packaging pace exponentially. It also helps food manufacturers develop quality products and adjust them to the new economic challenges in the market place.”

“We expect to increase sales and gross profits in 2009 thanks to Hefestus’ new packaging system solution,” de la Vega says.

“Extending our product shelf life up to 300% as well as saving time to market influences the entire supply chain from manufacturer to consumer.

“The retailers and the consumers get product that looks better and feels fresher for a longer time.”

SLB™ represents a ground-breaking evolution in packaging technology.

It significantly extends product shelf-life while maintaining the appearance, texture and freshness.

SLB™ is a new generation of energy-efficient modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) that improves production speeds and operational simplicity while opening new market horizons.

Hefestus, Ltd., is a developer and manufacturer of top-sealing packaging machines. Hefestus specializes in supplying unique and complete packaging solutions for the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. It provides a wide variety of standard and custom-made machines, from manual to fully automatic lines, to meet the complex packaging requirements of processors and consumers.

Significant savings for food packaging

An innovative method for measuring the oxygen permeability of packaging film could result in significant cost savings for the food packaging industry and less waste for the consumer.

The technique, called the Ambient Oxygen Ingress Rate (AOIR) method, can measure the permeability of oxygen through films in finished packaging.

The rate at which oxygen passes through a packaging film is a key factor for food products packaged under a modified atmosphere designed to exclude oxygen and inhibit the growth of microorganisms, thereby prolonging the shelf life of the product.

Most existing techniques measure oxygen permeability of film before it has been incorporated into the package — where the process of heating, stretching and forming can affect the film’s properties.

“Conventionally oxygen permeability of packaging film is measured on a flat film at a defined temperature — usually 23ºC,” says the AOIR method’s inventor, Dr Hanne Larsen, a scientist at the Norwegian research institute Nofima.

“It is an established method and is very good for comparing film A with film B and film C, and for providing data under standard conditions.

“However, when a food product is packaged the film does not remain flat and uniform — it is heated and stretched, so some parts will be thinner than others.

“My idea was that it would be much more useful to measure oxygen permeability of the finished packaging.”

Because the technique can be used on the finished article, it can carry out permeability testing under the conditions in which the product is stored — at any temperature, rather than a single standard temperature.

“The system allows the packaging to be optimised, for the processor to get much closer to what is actually needed,” says Larsen.

One key consequence of this is to eliminate the issue of over-specifying a packaging material by using a thicker film than is needed. This cuts costs for the producer and reduces waste for the consumer.

“The method also allows potential weaknesses in the package to be discovered,” Larsen says.

“For example leaks at sealing points. The process can then be modified to provide better packaging, improving shelf life and reducing spoilage.

“Overall the method allows the producer to optimise, simplify and redesign, all of which reduce costs and cut down on waste.”

The AOIR method has been incorporated into a machine called PermMate produced by Denmark-based PBI-Dansensor, a specialist in quality control and assurance equipment for the food industry.

PermMate has already shown how it can save costs and reduce waste for a manufacturer of bread products, according to PBI-Dansensor’s Sales & Marketing Director Karsten Kejlhof.

“The company had a problem with ingress of oxygen into the packaging and had decided to go for a thicker packaging film, from 180 micrometres to 240 micrometres, assuming that this would solve the problem,” Kejlhof says.

“They tested both sets of packaging with PermMate and found that the difference in oxygen ingress between the two films was so little that it would not have been worth making the switch.

“They would have wasted money on extra packaging material, and there would have been more waste once the packaging was discarded by the consumer. Without PermMate they would have simply relied on their intuition, which in this case was shown not to address the problem.”

Further cost savings can be made from the fact that PermMate is a compact and fast system, so permeability testing can be done in-house, removing the need to contract the work to more expensive third-party testing facilities, Kejlhof says.

Consumers prefer glass over other packaging

74% of consumers prefer glass packaging for food products a European survey has found.

Consumers rate glass as their top packaging material for food and beverage products, a recent survey has found.

The Federation of European Glass survey showed that a huge 74 per cent of the 6,200 households across 12 European countries involved favoured glass packaged products over other materials.

It was noted that nine out of ten people knew glass could be endlessly recycled without losing its quality or performance and 82 per cent of the consumers said they were active glass recyclers.

FEVE (The European Container Glass Federation) president Dominic Tombeur said that Europeans found glass the most recyclable and environmentally-friendly packaging material.

“They choose glass because it preserves taste and protects against contamination. It is an important affirmation that consumers see glass as a packaging gold standard.

”The survey’s statistics back up these claims as 48 per cent believe glass to be the safest packaging for health reasons and just over half of the consumers questioned felt that glass preserves the taste best.”

He said consumers also believed that products packaged in glass were prestigious – 81% of UK consumers felt that glass packaged products enhanced the experience of a ‘special occasion’.

“It is to be hoped that packaging specifiers and brand owners will take note that there is a demand for more glass packaging and start to reflect this public mood,” British Glass director general David Workman said.

“Given the results of the survey I trust that those who wish to enhance their brands will look afresh at the attributes that make glass the public’s favourite packaging material.

”These results support figures calculated after British Glass carried out a similar survey two years ago, which saw three quarters of the 1000 people questioned favour glass as the most natural form of packaging.”

APMA annual scholarship program

Submissions close 8 May for the Australian Packaging Machinery Association (APMA) annual scholarship program which will enable one lucky packaging engineer the opportunity to complete a Diploma in Packaging Technology.

The Australian Packaging Machinery Association – Australia’s national organisation, representing the packaging and processing machinery industry – believes that the scholarship program is not only an opportunity for a packaging engineer to further their education in the field of packaging, but also allows associations like theirs to contribute to the industry.

The Diploma in Packaging Technology is a U.K. government accredited qualification and operated by the PIABC, in conjunction with the IoP, and has been offered by the AIP continuously since 1980.

The Diploma has been revised and updated and is offered on-line. The qualification is broad, and provides an opportunity to study the principles of packaging, packaging materials and packaging processes.

The Diploma is a Degree-level qualification that prepares students to take responsibility for packaging operations at any level through the supply chain.

Entries are now available for the Australian Packaging Machinery Association 2009 Scholarship program via the website. Please click the button below to go to the website.

US packaging industry competitors unite for sustainability

Four of the United States’ leading carton manufacturers have joined forces to help advance improvements to carton recycling infrastructure across the country.

The formation of the Carton Council by Tetra Pak, Elopak, Evergreen Packaging and SIG Combibloc signals an unusual move by companies who are strong industry competitors.

However, a shared commitment to sustainability has brought them together as they seek to improve environmental performance of their products.

The Council is specifically committed to increasing carton recycling in the US.

By promoting both recycling technology and local collection programs, it believes it can help limit the number of cartons that become waste.

Cartons are an effective form of liquid food and beverage packaging and play an important role in protecting their nutritional value.

Chilled kitchen staples like milk and orange juice have long been packaged in traditional gable top cartons.

Increasingly, aseptic cartons are being utilized for food products and beverages like soups and broths, organic milk, soy milk, wine and juices, as a means to make them “shelf stable,” eliminating the need for preservatives and refrigeration.

The Council will also encourage consumers to consider the environmental impact of product packaging before they make a purchase.

Both gable top and aseptic cartons are made primarily from paper, a renewable resource that is highly recyclable.

In general, cartons have a smaller carbon footprint than traditional packages.

“We are very proud that the environmental impact of cartons already is among the lowest in the packaging industry,” Carton Council executive director Ed Klein said.

“Cartons are source-reduced and made primarily of paper, a renewable resource, from responsibly sourced, well-managed forests.

“But we want to take our commitments to the next level, and that’s where significantly increasing recycling comes in.”

Klein noted that the Council plans to work with communities that wish to add cartons to their recycling programs and will serve as a resource and forum for carton education.

Currently, communities in 26 states in the US are able to recycle cartons which give more than 60 million people access to carton recycling.

“This is significant but we are not satisfied. We want to increase the number of communities that recycle cartons, and we want to inform consumers in those communities that they can recycle their cartons and motivate them to do so,” Klein said.

One of the first alliances from the Carton Council to increase carton recycling is with Waste Management, which has agreed to include cartons in all their recycling programs.

Also working closely with the Council is Tropicana brand.

Recently, Tropicana, Waste Management & the Carton Council announced a national campaign to increase carton recycling to every community in the US.

FormRite sponsors new pet food category for Challenge Awards

The FormRite Group is a proud sponsor of the NEW Pet Food category in the Food Challenge Awards for 2009!

General manager of the FormRite Group, Greg Jung said his company knows how it feels to win awards in such competitive environments.

“It’s a boost to a company’s image in the market place and secures a greater presence in the minds of retailers when it comes to selecting shelf positioning,” he said.

“It’s one thing to produce a great product, package it and put it on the shelf, it’s quite another thing to meet sales targets when the product looks bland and blends in with the competition.”

Jung said there’s no competition for a visual difference that will make a product stand out from the crowd.

“By sponsoring this new pet food category, we will help to encourage products with presence, to be innovative in the usage of new packaging processes and ingredients, be highly visible with eye catching labeling and use of POP displays that literally are in-the-face of customers,” Jung said.

“This sponsorship rewards bold, new ideas of smaller companies and helps them compete on a level playing field against the big boys.”

FOOD Magazine Challenge Awards

The FOOD Magazine Challenge Awards recognise and reward food and drink processors that most successfully demonstrate product innovation and excellence, and entries are now open for 2009.

The Awards are open to all companies, regardless of size, that have a food or drink processing presence in Australia and New Zealand.

There are 12 Award categories with entrants required to demonstrate product innovation in ingredients, processing, food safety, packaging, marketing and, where applicable, exports.

As a processor, nominating your company for a FOOD Magazine Challenge Award is an excellent way of recognising all the effort and hard work your company has put in over the past year.

Entry is free and nominations are open now!

The 12 award categories are:

  • Alcoholic Beverages Award
  • Baked Goods Award
  • Confectionery Award
  • Dairy Award
  • Health & Wellness Award
  • Meat & Smallgoods Award
  • Non-alcoholic Beverages Award
  • Pet Food Award*
  • Ready Meals Award
  • Snackfoods Award
  • Soups & Prepared Foods Award
  • Sustainable Manufacturing Award*

*new category for 2009

A robot to pick, pack and load

Traditional AUSPACK exhibitor, Selpak Automation is Schubert’s distributor of packaging and processing equipment in Australia and NZ.

For Selpak Germany’s principle, Gerhard Schubert, pioneering the use of robotics in packaging has been an ongoing process.

Currently, he is expanding the use of packaging machines by developing a unique solution for end of line packaging in the beverage industry, which offers real flexibility.

“As demand grows for ever more flexible packaging machines, robot technology enjoys increased use in packaging applications,” Schubert explained.

“There is clear evidence to show that flexibility in packaging equipment is created by cutting back the number of mechanisms, shifting functions increasingly to the machine software, and consistently assigning product-specific operations to be performed by exchangeable tools

This concept is the basis for the design of the Schubert TLM packaging machines which have taken the market by storm since 2002, being used across a range of industries, including food, confectionery, healthcare, beverage, and pet food.

“Essentially any product which needs to be picked and loaded, can best be handled on Schubert equipment,” he said.

“Whether this involves case erecting, forming or denesting, loading into case or trays or other machines – such as flow wrappers or thermoformers – and closing, the key lies in successfully handling the product, and the flexibility with which it’s able to do this.”

Gerhard Schubert started his career as an apprentice for a company now known as Bosch. After finishing his training as a young adult, he had a vision of creating mechanical packaging machines.

“The first machine I built was a case erector almost 44 years ago,” he recalled.

Selpak has represented Schubert in NZ and Australia for almost 25 years. Schubert’s intention is to continue the company’s growth.

“I want Selpak to be best known for its excellence in every aspect of its business,” he said.

“Selpak hopes to attract and make new contacts at this year’s AUSPACK, however we also endeavour to exhibit cutting edge technology, which is relatively new to this part of the world. At AUSPACK 2009, Selpak will feature Schubert’s robotic packaging machine for the <[lb]>beverage industry, with a dedicated stand.”

This solution can handle both cans and bottles of different diameters at speeds of up to 1,000 parts per minute. Change-overs between the various formats are rapid and repeatable.

According to Schubert, “the key benefit of this system is its flexibility, without compromising efficiency or the final result. Essentially the machine is able to pack bottles into a range of different configurations on the same machine. In the past this was only possible using multiple machines, which took up large amounts of space.”

The machines applications include bottles or cans into sleeves or baskets, sleeves into shipper or trays, and individual bottles or cans into shippers, trays or crates.

“While the environment has been sidelined in the national debate for the time being, due to the current financial crisis, it remains as the driver for more innovative ways to reduce the layers of packaging and its impact on the environment,” he said.

“Our new flexible packaging technology also aims to decrease unit cost, bringing not only increased margins for manufacturers, but also benefits for the consumer.”

AUSPACK will be held at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park, from Tuesday 16 to Friday 19 June, 2009.

AFGC calls for national food and grocery agenda

Australia must urgently adopt a National Food and Grocery Agenda to ensure the nation’s long-term health, food supply and protection of thousands of jobs, food and grocery manufacturers’ representative group, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), announced today.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell told the National Press Club in Canberra that Federal, State and Territory governments must unite to fast-track a new policy menu for Australia’s $70 billion industry food and grocery industry.

“We need a National Food and Grocery Agenda that will sustain the industry’s long-term future, protect the health of Australians and ensure future growth and jobs,” Ms Carnell said.

“The answer requires a major U-turn in thinking and strategic policy direction.”

Ms Carnell said for too long, legislation and responsibility relating to the food and grocery sector has been scattered in a haphazard way between several Federal Government departments.

“There is no whole-of-government approach to this industry, which is Australia’s biggest manufacturing sector, employing more than 200,000 Australians,” Ms Carnell said.

“We need a champion around the Cabinet table to push our case and protect Australia’s future.”

The products manufactured by Australia’s food and grocery sector are contained in more than 24 million meals, consumed by 20 million Australians every day, which Ms Carnell said highlighted the importance of the industry currently facing many challenges including the global financial crisis, obesity, global food security and climate change.

“If the food and grocery industry suffers, everyone suffers – lives depend on both its existence and excellence. Food production, manufacturing and distribution systems must be safeguarded.”

The key elements of the national blueprint must include:

– Support for a robust and innovative food and grocery manufacturing sector that continues to be major exporter and employer

– Regulatory reform with a national approach to the enforcement of labelling

– A focus on food safety

– the food we eat is safer than it has ever been but continuing vigilance is needed to maintain and improve standards

– A partnership with industry to encourage healthier diets through consumer education, product reformulation, the adoption of daily intake guide front of pack labelling and responsible advertising to children, and

– An environmentally sustainable food chain with a focus on better packaging, reuse of water, minimising food waste and energy usage and improving the efficiency supply chains.

Ms Carnell said the new food and grocery blueprint must unite a range of portfolios directly interfacing with our sector — agriculture, education, innovation, health, trade, environment and industry.

A breath of fresh air

The Tic Tac brand has embraced the digital environment to engage with consumers while introducing two new products to the family.

In a brand first, Tic Tac’s new digital strategy sees an application launched for iPhone and facebook, together with an interactive website.

These new features will facilitate customer-brand interaction, reinvigorating the brand as the refreshing mints for mouth, mood and mind.

“In an age when consumers continue to embrace social media, a digital presence for brands is increasingly important. The launch of the Tic Tac brand in the digital space allows us to communicate in a relevant way with our target audience. Our strategy encourages consumers to interact with and share the playful Tic Tac experience,” said Tic Tac brand manager, Vanessa Vannini.

With almost 3,000 downloads from itunes in its first weekend, the Tic Tac iPhone technology is proving a success.

Tic Tac will also introduce two new products to the Tic Tac family — the limited edition Bold! and a bigger 24g pack across all retail outlets.

Available in two flavours, Apple Sour and Mint, Tic Tac Bold stands out from the counter with its funky curved packaging in green and blue. Targeted at a younger demographic, Bold is an intense and powerful flavour hit.

The bigger 24g Tic Tac pack replaces its 18g counterpart in all the traditional flavours offering consumers 33% more mints, but maintaining the same pocket-ability as the 18g original.

Monitoring of MAP systems required

As food safety standards become increasingly stringent, companies providing modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) need to ensure that they have appropriate monitoring and reporting systems in place, according to industry experts.

“For many years there have been regulations relating to putting modified atmospheres into packaging,” said leading global certification and inspection company for food safety, Bureau Veritas food inspector, Mette Skræ.

“But recently the situation has become a lot more strict — something that has largely been driven by customers, notably the big supermarkets.”

Two main areas of food safety standards as applied to modified atmosphere packaging relate to traceability and hazard control.

The EU directive No 95/2/EC classified gases used in MAP as food additives, and as such these come under the regulations governing food traceability — the ability to track a food product through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

“The main thing is that if you are putting something in your product, whether it is a gas or it is salt, you should be able to trace that substance back through the different stages of the process to the people who produced it,” Skræ said.

“If there are different batches of a product, for example, it is necessary to know which batch is supplied to which customer. If a problem is identified by a customer, the packaging company should be able to check back through its data records to see what the situation was with that package at that particular point.”

Clearly to implement such traceability requires not only accurate and timely monitoring of the gas composition, but also robust and reliable record-keeping.

“Maintaining records is important,” Skræ said.

“Hazard analysis is also a key requirement within the food sector. This is governed by the concept of hazard analysis and critical control point assessment (HACCP), an approach designed to systematically reduce or eliminate physical, chemical and biological hazards.

“This requires the identification and monitoring of key control points in the process where hazards could arise. In the US, for example, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, FSIS, requires each monitoring procedure and its frequency to be listed in the HACCP plan.”

In MAP such critical control points would include the gas content and package seal integrity.

“When critical points are identified, it is important to monitor them as often as possible,” said Skræ.

“Monitoring manually is often time consuming and automated systems need to be developed. In the early days these monitoring procedures were somtimes done by random sampling and it was considered sufficient to test maybe one sample per day. Now far more testing is required as people are looking for increasing levels of safety and security.”

PBI-Dansensor, one of Europe’s leading companies dedicated to quality and process control for MAP processing, recognises these new challenges and has been developing technology to meet them. The company produces a range of automatic and manual gas analysers as well as innovative leak detectors for packaging.

“To meet ever-stricter food safety regulations it is important to have the correct quality control and quality assurance equipment,” said PBI-Dansensor’s sales and marketing manager, Karsten Kejlhof.

“One of the main issues for both traceability and hazard analysis is to have documentation and data to show what was happening at a given point in the process at a given time. Keeping records and logging data is crucial.”

Taking measurements and logging data manually is time-consuming and prone to human error, Kejlhof said.

“With our newer equipment these functions are automated and the relevant information goes directly into a database, ensuring an appropriate workflow that enables information to be easily retrieved for traceability and hazard assessment at critical points.”

Healthy year ahead for yoghurts

With the traditional healthy image of yoghurts, it is no surprise that more and more products with health claims are dominating launch activity in the sector.

Of the 2,200 yoghurts launched globally in 2008, over 1,500 were positioned on a health platform of some kind.

The increasing segmentation and sophistication of the yoghurt market, yoghurts with added health benefits can now be divided into two major types. These are categorised by the Innova Database as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ health.

Products positioned on a passive health platform include low and light products, as well as natural and organic lines. Active health yoghurts, sometimes also termed functional, include those with added health benefits, such as vitamins and mineral, probiotics, prebiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids; as well as those on particular benefit platforms, such as anti-ageing, bone health, heart health and gut health products.

Yoghurts positioned on a passive health platform continue to dominate the market, reflecting the established importance of low and light lines and the growing interest in natural and organic lines.

In 2008, over 1,200 yoghurt launches recorded in the Innova Database were positioned on a passive health platform, compared with nearly 800 on an active health platform. This indicates that there are also a number of products using both positionings, reflecting the growing use of multi-benefit claims at a time of strong competitive pressure in the market.

Probiotic products dominate the active health yoghurt market in most countries, driven by the success of brands such as Danone’s Activia, which has a global turnover of over US$2 billion a year. Indeed, it has been attributed with kick-starting the US probiotic yoghurts market, which trailed Europe for many years. After just three years on the US market, the Activia brand is worth over US$400 million.

Activia has been available on the more established European market for some years, having started out in France in the 1980s under the name of Danone Bio. It has been actively developed and promoted in recent years as its new name has been brought into different markets, and it has also increased the emphasis on its functional properties in terms of its digestive benefits in speeding intestinal transit.

Activia now dominates the active health dairy market in France, and the bifidus yoghurt market in Spain, leads both the fruit yoghurt and functional yoghurt markets in Germany, and has over 80% of the active health yoghurts market in the UK, with sales of over £150 million a year.

According to Innova Market Insight’s head of research, Lu Ann Williams, “the success of Activia has boosted the active health yoghurts market as a whole and, as well as increasing product activity, the market has seen strong growth over the past few years, easily outstripping the active health drinks sector, which was previously more dynamic.

“While the passive health yoghurts sector is apparently stabilising as consumers increasingly regard low and light lines as standard in many instances, products are tending to move to an active health positioning where possible, while often also maintaining passive health benefit claims, to maximise consumer appeal.”

Closer to home

In Australia, yoghurt plays an important role in the dairy industry, being its second largest segment and accounting for around 10% of market share, while experiencing strong and consistent sales growth. According to data from RetailWorld, sales of yoghurt increased by 9.2% in 2007, year-on-year.

Sales growth can be attributed to yoghurts’ healthy image and convenience, which, in Australia, are two key consumer concerns. According to Dairy Australia, 65% of yoghurt sales are for low-fat and diet varieties. In addition, fruit and natural flavours account for 65% and 15% of yoghurts respectively.

As with the rest of the world, sales growth in Australia is also being driven by product innovation in areas such as fortification – with added omega-3, probiotics, vitamins, as well as new flavours, and packaging improvements.

In the yoghurt segment of the industry, the three top brands – Ski, from Dairy Farmers, Yoplait, from National Foods, and Nestle, account for roughly 60% of all yoghurt sales.

National Foods’ recently launched Yoplait Forme No Fat Berry Brulee Flavoured Yoghurt, which is a fat free berry brulee flavoured yoghurt in plastic tubs, with no fat and less than 1% added sugar. It is also low GI, with no artificial colours or flavours, and rich in calcium and protein, while being gluten free.

Parmalat Australia is one of the leading manufacturers of milk, UHT milk, flavoured milk, yoghurt, cream and custard in Australia. Based on supermarket data from RetailWorld for 2007, the company had a market share of 11.2% for yoghurt, and this share has been consistently increasing since 2005.

The company is working to improve its sales mix through the production of higher value-added, innovative, and functional products, such as probiotic yoghurts, as well as products that address consumer intolerances and allergies.

Parmalat Australia has recently released the Vaalia for Toddlers with Omega-3 DHA. The six flavoured yoghurts for toddlers from 12 months old, are designed to help brain and eye development, with added calcium for bones and teeth; vitamins and minerals for growth and energy; as well as live yoghurt cultures – acidophilus, bifidus and LGG; and less than 10g sugar per pot.

All set to go

With the 2008 opening of two new Packaging and Tooling Centres in Mexico and China, Sidel has enhanced its local service capability for new packaging development and blow mould manufacturing.

Coca-Cola Bottling System has benefited from Sidel’s worldwide network for the manufacture of approximately 2,000 blow moulds for its new On-the-Go (OTG) bottle.

The launch, by Coca-Cola, of the new OTG bottle shape, replacing the traditional contour bottle for small formats (0.4L, 0.5L and 0.6L), started in late 2007 in China. It was then extended to Europe in 2008, and now to North and South America.

Looking for a partner that could manage complex projects through the combination of its network and industry expertise, the company employed Sidel.

The PTCs which are created by Sidel, concentrate all packaging development skills in one site: bottle and mould design, as well as manufacture of blow moulds and perso parts.

According to the company, all products meet the same high quality standards, since each centre benefits from the Sidel Group’s expertise in various blow mould technologies, acquired over the last 50 years.

Above and beyond simple mould manufacturing, Sidel also guarantees the industrial performance, and in many instances, improvements of the bottle’s mechanical properties. As an example, Sidel was able to readjust the OTG bottle design by addressing technical challenges in terms of material stretching and positioning of the radii found in the original design.

In Mexico, Sidel has received an order for more than 400 moulds from the network of converters that work with Coca-Cola. Order fulfilment was made possible by the newest PTC, which opened in Guadalajara in May 2008.

This plant’s industrial capacity, added to that for the PTCs in Atlanta, US and Sao Paulo, Brazil, brings total production up to 8,000 moulds per year for North and South America, and has enabled Sidel to ensure delivery of the new moulds within the country in the record time of just four weeks.

New culture blends for feta cheese

Using the new DVS cultures, dairies now have the opportunity to produce traditional white brined cheese with improved texture, while at the same time benefiting from the advantages of direct-to-the-vat production.

Intended for production of traditional white brined cheese like feta and halloumi, the culture blends from Chr. Hansen have been developed in cooperation with Greek manufacturers of traditional sheep and goat milk feta cheese.

“Our launch of the cultures is global and we expect sales in several markets but initially we focus on Greece, the Balkan countries and Turkey,” said Chr. Hansen cheese cultures marketing manager, Nanna Borne.

“Long term, we want to promote the cultures to Middle Eastern dairies as well. Also, the Australian market has shown interest in the new cultures.”

A growing cheese segment

According to GNPD Mintel data the number of new feta cheese products has been climbing steadily throughout the past decade, and in 2008 there was a virtual boom in new feta cheese products. South Africa, the US and Greece account for the vast majority.

Of the 14 million tonnes of global cheese production, 7% falls into the feta category. Feta is a major cheese type in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, accounting for one third of total cheese production in this region.

Improved texture and shelf life

“Compared to traditional bulk starter cultures, which are usually based on pure thermophilic strains, the new blends from Chr. Hansen give the cheese a better texture thanks to the mesophilic strains,” explained Chr. Hansen Greece business dairy manager, Christos Tsitsos.

“Traditional white brined cheeses are matured for one to three weeks and during storage there is a risk of having yeast growth on the cheese. When using culture blends based on both mesophilic and thermophilic strains, the risk of yeast attack is eliminated due to a better controlled acidification of the cheese under production.”

“Another key benefit for the dairies lies within the culture production technology,” Borne pointed out. The freeze-dried feta cultures are delivered in Chr. Hansen’s Direct Vat Set (DVS) packaging format, in a package size which fits an average vat size of 1000L – the most common vat size in Greek feta production.

The DVS dairy cultures are highly concentrated and standardised freeze-dried cultures used for direct inoculation of the cheese milk. The cultures need no activation or other treatment prior to use and offer a number of advantages in terms of flexibility of use, consistent performance, possibility of using customised culture blends, and no investment in bulk starter equipment.

“Producers of white brined cheese get some new tools to optimise their production, as they have new freeze-dried DVS starter cultures which are much easier to handle than growing a bulk starter,” said Borne.

“In the Balkan countries – Greece, Turkey and Cyprus – the traditional white cheeses are often seasonal, as they are produced from sheep and goat milk. Therefore it can be difficult to keep the expertise to propagate a bulk starter. Adding the culture directly to the vat is far more convenient.”

Today, more than 25% of all feta cheese is made with starter culture using a direct-to-vat technology.

The new culture blends are named FD-DVS WBC-0125X100U and FD-DVS WBC0225X100U. WBC stands for White Brined Cheese, which is the cheese category which feta belongs to.

The global biotechnology company, Chr. Hansen, provides ingredients to the food, dairy, dietary supplements, and agricultural industries. The com-pany supplies food cultures, probiotics, enzymes, colours and functional systems, which are used in food and beverage applications, dietary supplements and agricultural products.

Packing fun into functionality

With an aim to be the most exciting plastics company in Australasia, renowned for exceptional innovation that transforms its customers’ businesses, Alto focuses on inspriring excellence through unique packaging.

NZ’s largest rigid plastic packaging company, Alto was formed eight years ago, though it existed before that as PDL Plastics. Today, the company has eight dedicated plants in NZ, which specialise in extrusion and thermoforming, blow moulding and injection moulding.

Together with a dedicated sales team in Australia, Alto employs over eight hundred people, manufacturing packaging largely for the FMCG market, while also supplying key industrial and technical markets.

The company has a strong focusand successful record of designing and developing innovative packaging for the food and beverage sector, while responding to market demands for quality, competitively priced, and modern packaging.

For Alto sales and marketing manager, Chris Botha, the key to the company’s success lies in creating “appealing packaging that sells. How-ever, on top of that, manufacturers are also looking for flexibility from their packaging partner.”

Alto works to incorporate these demands into their processes through its ideas generation R&D technology and innovation centre.

“Generally we’ll get a concept, and then we’ll put three or four different ideas on the table. Some are kind of ‘out there’, and mainly it’s just a matter of creating those ideas and allowing the client to review them,” explained Botha.

“For example, we put a concept forward to a major retailer, for a new salad pack, with a handle feature on it – something that’s never been seen before in that particular segment. It was completely differentiated from others on the market, which are just your normal, standard, square, or rectangular salad packs.

“For us, it’s about designing and being creative with the designs. Rather than just rehashing things that have been created in the past, it’s trying to be exciting.

“Packaging can be quite bland, and it really can’t afford to be, because in many cases it is the packaging that promotes the product. If you’ve got a nice, attractive looking pack, it sells. The appeal factor is big, and it’s really just about being creative,” he said.

At last year’s New Zealand Plastics Industry Design Awards, Alto took out an overwhelming number of categories, winning two gold, three silver and two bronze medals. The National Biennial Design Awards are NZ Plastic Industry’s opportunity to display the best of design, tool making and production techniques for the development of new and exciting plastic products by NZ companies.

“I believe our success has been largely driven by our company vision and focus,” said Botha. “We aspire to be the most exciting plastics business in Australasia, aiming to transform our clients’ business through a unique approach. This sums up who Alto is.

“We are all about energy and transforming that creative energy into fantastic packaging for our clients.

“We have a creative design team in NZ that make it their focus to deliver remarkable packaging, and an obsessed manufacturing team that is always looking at ways to improve performance,” Botha explained.

“Our in-house product and tool design team are critical to Alto, and enable us to offer customers a fully integrated product development, tooling manufacture and production service. We are one of the few companies in Australasia to be able to offer this full service, linking in well with our customer NPD process.”

One of the key services that Alto prides itself on is its dedication to customer relations.

“We get totally involved with our customers to understand their needs. It’s all about making our clients happy and successful. If our clients are happy and successful then so are we. It can’t get simpler than that.”

Amongst Alto’s winning entries in the Design Awards were the Meadow Fresh 1kg Yoghurt Tub, designed for Goodman Fielder, and the Eternal Water Range, a distinctive and stylised bottle range, designed for the export market for Paeroa.

In addition to designing creative, individual solutions for customers, Alto also offers mainstream innovations in standard product lines, such as the Plix brand of porous food trays, which eliminate the need for a soaker pad in meat and poultry packaging.

Using proven technology and a completely new compound, Alto developed, tested and marketed the cost competitive one-piece format tray for the Australasian market. The elimination of the need for an absorbent soaker pad, saves time and labour in the butcher department, and removes the risk of cross contamination through accidental use of the soaker pad.

For Botha, the Alto difference comes down to the little things. “It’s about our approach, our attitude. It’s engaging with our customers, listening, and not forcing anything on them. It’s also allowing for the creativity that comes with that early engagement.

“We don’t just want to be another typical packaging company. There are lots of other companies that make the same stuff we make, but the difference is that we try and be a bit more creative. We’re very service orientated, responsive, and innovative. And we’re constantly putting new stuff on the table, while not being arrogant about what we do.

“Whereas some suppliers can be inflexible about their products, saying ‘that’s all we’ve got and you can take it or leave it’, we take a different approach. We say ‘if that doesn’t suit you, we’re prepared to work with you to come up with the ultimate pack you’re looking for’,” said Botha.

Really, who said packaging wasn’t fun?

Packaging scholarship applications now open

The Australian Packaging Machinery Association has announced the launch of their Annual Scholarship program which will enable one lucky packaging engineer the opportunity to complete a Diploma in Packaging Technology.

The Australian Packaging Machinery Association – Australia’s national organisation, representing the packaging and processing machinery industry – believes that the scholarship program is not only an opportunity for a packaging engineer to further their education in the field of packaging, but also allows associations like theirs to contribute to the industry.

According to Australian Packaging Machinery Association chairman, Rob Lawrence, “the annual scholarship enables the awardee to enrol in the Australian Institute of Packaging Diploma in Packaging Technology; an internationally recognised and accredited course.”

AIP national president, Craig Wellman, added that the Institute is grateful that associations like the Australian Packaging Machinery Association recognise the importance of education and training and are contributing to the growth of the packaging industry as a whole in Australia.

“The Australian Packaging Machinery Association annual scholarship program is the first of its kind in Australia and the AIP encourages all packaging engineers to register for the scholarship program,” Wellman said.

The Diploma in Packaging Technology is a UK government accredited qualification and operated by the PIABC, in conjunction with the IoP, and has been offered by the AIP continuously since 1980.

The Diploma has been revised and updated and is offered on-line.

The qualification is broad, and provides an opportunity to study the principles of packaging, packaging materials and packaging processes.

The Diploma is a Degree-level qualification that prepares students to take responsibility for packaging operations at any level through the supply chain.

Entries are now available for the Australian Packaging Machinery Association 2009 Scholarship program.

Submissions must be received by COB on Friday the 8th of May with the inaugural winner being announced at the AIP National Technical Forums which will be held alongside AUSPACK 2009 on Wednesday the 17th and Thursday the 18th of June.

Closing a closure deal

After 5 years of trialing, Cadbury Schweppes (CS) has gone national with Melbourne closure producer Unique Class Plastics Australia (UCPA).

In its pursuit of world’s best practice, CS wanted:

  • the lowest impact on the environment high tamper evidence;
  • an extremely low taint factor;
  • a universal closure for water and carbonated soft drinks; and
  • a state of the art closure by world standards.

After hundreds of millions of product in test markets in Australia, CS has moved on to a national release of UCPA capped products.

UCPA general manager, Vern Casey, said CS is a very consumer minded and cautious company.

“CS needed surety of supply and service,” he said. “The chosen supplier was expected to demonstrate innovation not only in 28mm closure but in the whole range of its plastic packaging.”

According to Casey no other closure in Australia is as tamper evident and leak proof as the UCPA Soft Seal 28mm.

“With years of testing under our belt and full production of hundreds of millions on major bottler’s production delivered into Australia’s harshest markets, this has been proven time and time again,” he said.

The UCPA Closure will run on p+p and bottle pickup cappers at >500bpm without problems at application torques of 15in/p.and less and release torques of less than 10in/p.

The UCPA 28mm Soft Seal is moulded from organoliptic HDPE from one of the world’s highest quality resin suppliers.

It is taint free and contains less than a ten thousandth of the impurities allowed in the closure standard.

With its low cost 28mm, 38mm, push pull and sports closures, UCPA is heading towards one billion per annum production capacity.

“As the closure is one piece and low weight, it has a cost advantage,” Casey explained. “UCPA is also a company with a sustainable, low cost structure, low overheads, the latest fully automated plant and high hygiene standards.

“It has proven record staff and service personnel and a certified quality assurance regime including CMM testing.”

Mac’s makes for Oz

Mac’s beer, one of NZ’s most successful craft brews, is aiming to win a slice of the growing Australian craft beer market, with a maverick attitude and tongue-in-cheek humour.

Mac’s won two trophies at last year’s Australasian Beer Awards, having started life as the ultimate ‘home brew’.

It was the creation of former All Black, Terry McCashin, a farmer and publican from Picton, NZ who couldn’t find a beer he wanted to drink, let alone one he wanted to serve his customers.

When told by one brewery rep that his pub would have to take what the brewery had on offer, McCashin decided to make his own beer.

The dream was not accomplished without difficulty. Six months of red tape were the first hurdle – no-one had asked about brewing a new beer for 50 years and the man who knew which forms to fill out had passed away.

The second problem came when local breweries bought out all stocks of bottles and caps.

This didn’t stop McCashin.

By then he had acquired a site for Mac’s Beers, the old Nelson cider factory and he found the solution to his bottle dilemma in the warehouse – hundreds of the factory’s original cider bottles complete with rip top caps.

In 1981, Mac’s beer came to life – in cider packaging – a unique style that sets the brand apart to this day.

With a state of the art brewery in Wellington enabling Mac’s to make naturally brewed beers without additives, Mac’s sources the most expensive hops and natural ingredients.

“We have our mainstay beers, but love to make a short-run limited release when the creative urges hit,” said Mac’s Australian brand ambassador, Kurt Gross.

Gross will introduce three Mac’s beers this year to Australian craft beer drinkers: Mac’s Gold, the original beer and biggest seller; Hop Rocker, the premium Pilenser; and Spring Tide, an all organic, lower carbohydrate style.