Confectionery packaging speeds are nearing their peak with better in-feed and downstream equipment, combined with advances in printing technology, according to the chairman of the NCA’s Supplier Advisory Committee.
Lee Hartman, marketing & technology manager at Printpack and chairman of the National Confectioners Association (NCA) Supplier Advisory Committee, said: “We’re pushing the limits in terms of speed.”
Cold seal helped optimize speed
He said that in the last decade packaging speed has “increased considerably.” “The primary reason is the cold seal technology,” he said.
Cold seal was introduced in the early Seventies and is now commonly used on flow wrap packaging, one of the most conventional pack styles for chocolate bars.
The method uses pressure rather than heat to seal wrappers, which saves energy and can produce 400-600 packs a minute compared to 200-300 for heat seal. Fun size and minis can reach over 1,000 packs a minute.
Hartman said that cold seal was particularly advantageous in chocolate packaging because it uses no heat that could potentially melt the product.
The technology continues to be optimized by equipment manufacturers, but Hartman said it was “probably at its peak.”
Extended Gamut Printing
Asked what the future holds for packaging speed and flexibility, he said: “There’s definitely been an increased awareness of extended gamut printing such as Printpack Colorpack.”
Extended gamut printing uses a pallet of colors capable of printing and matching most designs. It has been around for a few years, but confectioners are starting to take note and are seeing the benefits.
Hartman said that a make-ready press can take several hours, but with the extended gamut printing there is no need to change inks, only plates and overall set up and changeover costs are reduced.
Asked if certain graphics took longer to produce for sophisticated designs on confectionery packaging, he said that press, plate and ink technologies had already made it possible to achieve difficult artwork with product illustration.
Matte films and stand up pouches
Hartman added that matte-finish and stand up pouch packs were two emerging pack styles for confectionery.
“Matte-Finish is very common in sweet and salted snacks packaging. The appearance can be achieved with the use of a matte film such as a matte oriented polypropylene film or a matte coating.”
“The advantage of a matte coating is that it can be applied as a registered pattern to create a matte/glossy contrast or a matte/clear window option so that the consumer can see the product,” he said.
According to Hartman, stand up pouch are also gaining acceptance in the marketplace, and are proving effective in boosting shelf-appeal in stores.