Keeping bags closed
Innovative and convenient, resealable bag features can add to a distinctive shelf presence that promotes product differentiation. We have uncovered several new closing systems equipped with new concepts and capabilities.
When selecting bag closures for their products, bakers and snack manufacturers want systems that lock in freshness, maintain product integrity, are tamper-resistant and easy-to-close and can be printed on.
Given the competitiveness of the food industry, bakers and snack manufacturers also are constantly searching for ways to differentiate their brands. Innovative, resealable features can give packaging a distinctive shelf presence that enables today’s food producers to set themselves apart from their competitors.
In addition, packaging manufacturers always see demand for more easy-to-use closures that are inexpensive. “Other [demands] are for nonmetallic materials that avoid the use of metal in food packaging and can be put through a metal detector and for nonmetallic closures for microwave oven use,” says Steve Clements, vice president, Ben Clements and Sons Inc., South Hackensack, N.J.
Ben Clements and Sons offers Polycore, a nonmetallic twist-tie ribbon for use in semi-automatic and fully automated twist-tie machinery. “For companies looking to do final packaging prior to metal detection, Polycore allows this, as it will not activate alarms in metal detectors,” Clements explains. “Also, it can be microwaved and is resilient to cold and water contamination.”
Clements sees increased demand for decorative foil and holographic twist-tie ribbons in spools for use on machinery, cut-lengths and special die-cut shapes.
As the number of standup pouch formats has grown, so has the availability of resealable closure applicators, such as zippers, press-to-close devices and adhesive tabs. These devices improve the consumer experience, says Mark Crush, vice president business development, Infinium Printing, LLC.
The Louisville, Ky.-based company recently partnered with Velcro to introduce a line of fasteners that take user convenience a step. Velcro and Infinium Printing’s PRESS-LOK reclosable fasteners solve a common consumer frustration—not knowing whether the package is truly closed, according to Crush. The design includes a series of interlocking micro features that connect at multiple levels. This reportedly ensures reliable engagement of the flexible package sides, even after repeated use. In addition, the closure has a tactile feedback element, which tells the consumer the package is truly secure. Crush anticipates growth for this in the snack and bakery market in 2013.
Fragrance zippers that impart an attractive smell, such as a lemon scent for a dishwashing product, are attracting interest as well.
And child-resistant closures and bag closures that can withstand high-pressure pasteurization are major requests, says Art Malcomson, director of sales and marketing for Zip-Pak, an ITW company, in Manteno, Ill.
Meanwhile, retail brands—specifically Target and Safeway—are adding reclosure features to their snack packages as a way of upgrading and differentiating their products from traditional branded products, Malcomson adds. “From a package perspective, we have three new resealable package format options: The Pour & Lok, Zip360 and Zipbox, all of which offer a different level of functionality and consumer convenience,” he explains. “From a closure perspective, Zip-Pak’s new Vector Resealable Matrix is being well-received.”
Vector Resealable Matrix features a multi-align, matrix-style profile suitable for package formats such as Zip360, where easy reclose is a key part of package functionality.
According to Mitch Lindsey, technical sales at Burford Corp., Maysville, Okla., increased automation and tamper-evidence are always in great demand by food processors. “Tamper-evidence has drawn interest with bakery products for years,” he explains.
Lindsey cites several reasons for manufacturers’ interest in resealable closures: Products stay fresher longer when packaged in a sealed bag with a twist tie for reclosing; and sealed bags deter product theft. Burford has tamper-evident closure (TEC) systems that seal and perforate bags and use a twist-tie for reclosure. Resealable closures prevent pest infestations.
Consumer trends driving the sale of baked goods and snacks in resealable bags include demand for products with fewer calories, individual servings, on-the-go consumption, multiple flavors and gluten-free products, say experts.
“There are more SKUs [stock-keeping units] in each company offering, which means shorter run times before having to switch to a different product,” says Gary Ellington, western divisional sales manager, Kwik Lok Corp. in Yakima, Wash., which designed and patented the original all-plastic zipper bag closure. “This requires packaging equipment to handle a wide range of products and sizes and the ability to change equipment settings quickly between products.”
Ellington adds that bakery and snack plants are also asking for networking, traceability printing, standardized parts, parts consignment and built-in parts manufacture alerts that facilitate maintenance and reduce downtime. “They are asking for more standardization of parts across equipment lines and equipment that is easy to maintain and clean,” he notes. “The ability to track product from the plant to the end consumer is getting more and more important.”
Another trend is the growth of single households and eating alone, which are driving flexible pouch growth, according to Crush. “This demographic wants shelf-ready products and package designs that allow them to close and secure the package to avoid waste,” he explains. He adds that converted, flexible packaging growth in North America is forecast to average around 3.5% per year and expected to reach nearly $22 billion by 2015 due to the appeal of alternative formats and a shift away from boxes and cartons.
Crush sees continued use of eco-friendly packaging and products to reduce the carbon footprint and growth of ergonomic shapes that address the needs of younger generations, such as tubular, hand-held shapes that promote child independence.
Answering the call
Manufacturers of bag-closure systems agree that bakers and snack manufacturers are asking for new ways to further automate the packaging process. To that end, Burford has developed a “speed follower” that eliminates the need for an operator to make adjustments when line speeds increase or decrease, says Lindsey.
The company’s newest closure machine is the ST100. “The design of this machine was driven by a new zipper-style bag requiring a seal on the open end and the trimming/removal of excess material,” Lindsey explains.
Kwik Lok’s 893 Ultra bag-closing machine can close more than 110 bags per minute and calculates the number of bags closed per hour, shift or day. A countdown feature is also available. Operated by a touchscreen, the unit can display different languages to accommodate today’s diverse workforce.
In May, Kwik Lok will ship a new 901 printer to accompany the 893 Ultra. “The 901 prints directly on the Kwik Lok and can display a wide variety of information, including 2D barcodes to address the traceability needs of customers,” Ellington says. “It can print 1 million Loks with one ink cartridge.”
Packaging equipment manufacturers encounter numerous challenges when designing bag-closing equipment: Ensuring operator safety while allowing for the necessary production capabilities; providing a compact design; and building equipment that’s more easily cleaned and sanitized, to name a few. Depending on the application, Lindsey says, the equipment may require additional conveyor space.
Operating at high speeds in a small footprint is an ongoing challenge, says Malcomson, particularly in a category such as snacks, where a large base of machinery typically is installed in a minimum of space. “And retrofitting [equipment] in these environments is a challenge,” he says. “Another is trying to create designs that are ‘standard’, yet flexible enough to be mated with a wide variety of packaging machines.”
Whether it’s high-speed performance, tamper-evidence, an economical price or extra convenience, the new bag-closure systems are prepared to meet bakers’ and snack produceres’ demands head-on. SF&WB