Shaping packaging in various formats Strong, versatile packaging serves today’s consumer demand for safe, fresh, and conveniently packed food; while machine makers like SML offer technology for thicker PET sheets and Coveris/Kiefel for recyclable PP cups; and Amcor its latest metalfree coating for keeping coffee fresher.
Consumer demand for vacuum packaging Consumers are more inclined to take up safe and conveniently packaged food. Vacuum thermoformed packaging, highly used for its flexibility and durability, covers the various compact and efficient packaging needs of today’s consumers. This, thus, supports the market growth. With increasing disposable incomes, the Asia Pacific region is forging ahead on vacuum thermoformed packaging, especially the tray types. At the same time, Europe and North America are also expected to witness a steady, however, slower gain, incentivised by retailers offering attractive and, likewise, innovative sale formats to meet the changing consumers’ demands and purchase habits. On the downside, there are a few developments that are restraining growth of the market, such as the rigorous regulatory policies in reference to material used in vacuum thermoforming packaging products; and because it is difficult to attain precise wall thickness symmetrically over the complete product, this affects the quality standards of the product to a large extent. This technical difficulty is pressing manufacturers to look for substitutes to vacuum thermoformed packaging. Vertical form-fill-seal system changes the pace Automated packaging systems can complement manual labour in the processing sector, as well as reduce wastage as seen in a new vertical form fill and seal system (VFFS) introduced by ULMA Packaging for packing fresh herbs and light leaf salads. The system offers time and cost savings for producers, while reducing manual intervention to a minimum during the packing process. The patent-pending VTI640V VFFS solution designed by the Spanish firm uses a device that pulls the product down to the bottom of the bag (with air) at speed before sealing it without damaging the herbs, which can happen if the product is handled roughly or they become blocked in the forming tube of conventional packaging machinery. This equipment is already making an impact in the fresh produce sector in Europe for companies keen to ULMA Packaging's new vertical form fill reduce their reliance on manual labour and re-work and seal system caused by ‘product in seal’. The new design function could also be a cheaper alternative to ultrasonic sealing, as the product sits lower in the bag and away from the seal area on sealing. Only two employees are needed to run the line with higher outputs: one operates and the other loads the machine, thus enabling other staff to be fielded in other tasks. ULMA claims its system has the potential for payback in less than six months. Upgrading properties of thick PET sheets PET, like any other raw materials used for consumers goods, is required to satisfy market preference for more environmentally acceptable raw materials, not only offering a high degree of recyclability (as PET does), but also thicker PET sheets. These are characterised by high transparency and stiffness, and thereby serve the trend towards even larger clear cups and trays for (take-away) food packaging, Austria-based extrusion machine supplier SML says. SML cited that producing thick PET sheet with excellent optical properties is a very demanding process; and requires keen attention to quality of the raw material, drying and melt treatment. Accordingly, the design of the entire line and the selected process parameters can improve the properties of thick PET sheet significantly, says the machine maker.