Picking up a bag of tortilla chips from the grocery store rarely inspires much excitement. Most of the time, these snacks are used as a vessel to scoop up more exciting flavors, like dips, salsas, and guacamoles. Outlaw Snax, an up-and-coming snack producer based in Ocala, FL, saw the untapped potential of the tortilla chip and decided to turn the afterthought of the snack aisle into a “dangerously delicious” stand-alone flavor phenomenon.
A chip on its shoulder
“We believe in bold flavors, full bags and a complete customer experience that is going beyond the normal snack food industry,” says Michael Brinkley, plant manager of Outlaw Snax.
Not only is each chip loaded with flavor, but each comes with its own character for snacking with a story. For example, Kid Dynamo is the intergalactic bandit behind the spicy ranch flavor who joins forces with the Sweet Heat Sisters of honey sriracha to bring fiery flavor to the furthest reaches of the universe.
“Our first reiteration of the brand had a more country and western feel. But, after we tested it with customers, we decided to go to a more intergalactic feel,” says Dave Kersey, director of sales, Outlaw Snax. “We got more edgy and creative with the graphics and the designs really pop, and once you try our products the bold flavors are what really distinguishes us from other competitive brands. The character platforms are going to give us a really neat and creative way to grow equity and creativity in the brand moving forward.”
Early reception to their snacks has been overwhelmingly positive, with new flavors and characters currently in development. In addition to the new products, Outlaw Snax is expanding into new spaces as well, such as Sam’s Club, Dollar Tree, Roses, Roses Express, and other retail outlets. With demand continuing to grow, the packaging lines in the Ocala facility that prepare chips for sale need to be efficient and easy to use with little wasted product or film.
Unfortunately, the machines originally used to fill the bags with chips reportedly left much to be desired. A combination of machines from different suppliers all performed differently, which led employees to require extended training to learn the nuances of each machine. These variations led to inefficient changeovers and high film waste, all of which negatively impacted the bottom line.
After reviewing several options, Outlaw Snax chose to move forward with Elete Vertical Form Fill Seal machines from Matrix Packaging Machinery, the first of which was installed in January of 2019. Since the initial installation, four more machines have been added to production, and more are expected to be placed into action soon.
“Based on the success of our first machine, we’ve replaced all our form fill seal machines with Matrix machines. We’ve experienced much quicker changeovers, shorter training time for our packaging machine operators, and everything is presented in a standard, universal language. The programming on Matrix machines makes changeovers a whole lot easier for us. Our bag waste went down significantly, and they just really improved our operation as a whole,” Brinkley says.
The Matrix Elete is a high-performance, configurable solution for small and large bags. It comes with automatic film tracking, a stainless steel frame, optional printer, labeler, and multiple valve applications. The machine can produce several different bag sizes, such as pillow, gusset, quad, and flat bottom with a variety of films, including recyclable, at filling rates up to 100 bags per minute.
After chips are seasoned, they travel up a bucket conveyor and are routed to one of four Yamato combination scales, where product is weighed based on the bag size being run. Both the scales and bagging machines are linked together, giving the operator full control of the line from the Elete’s HMI touchscreen. After the weighed chips flow down to the Elete Premiers and are packaged, they travel up a short conveyor to a rotating table and are placed into boxes in preparation for shipping.
One of the benefits the fleet of Elete Premiers has brought to Outlaw Snax is simplicity in both changeovers and operation.
“The changeover process is very simple; it’s all programmed right into the machine,” says Rod Hoff, plant engineer, Outlaw Snax. “An operator just selects the changeover program, puts the film on and within a few minutes they’re making a new bag. We have found that these machines are very easy for team members to operate.”
“Quick changeover time eliminates downtime for the customer,” says Chris Scalone, aftermarket director with Matrix. “The quicker the changeover time, the quicker they can get back into production. We’ve developed many retrofits and new designs that have drastically reduced changeover time to go from one product to another.”
Outlaw Snax has six Matrix Eletes operating 24 hours a day, five days a week, producing bag sizes between 2 and 28 ounces.
Integrating Matrix machines into an existing packaging line proved to be an improvement as well. Unlike previous machines that had to be manipulated to work with products from other brands, Matrix designs its solutions to fit into virtually any packaging setup. Matrix works seamlessly with other brands, for example, Yamato scales, to integrate that equipment into the line for a trouble-free, turnkey solution.
Delivering a powerful snacking experience to the furthest reaches of the galaxy is a tall order, but with Matrix at its side, Outlaw Snax is up for the challenge.
“We would encourage anyone looking to improve their packaging to consider Matrix,” Brinkley says. “They have done great work for us, and we’ll continue to work with them in the future.”
“What distinguishes Matrix is that we sincerely care about our customers,” Scalone says. “One of our largest assets is having an experienced service technician staff. We have 11 technicians based around the country that have more than 200 years of experience. A company proves its worth long after the sale, and that’s where Matrix really shines.”
For more on the Outlaw Snax and Matrix story, watch the video here.