Packaging is coming in more sophisticated shapes and sizes, particularly when it comes to ready meals or dessert items, according to UK feeding systems manufacturer Rotech Machines.
The company provides coding and labelling systems for the food industry. Offline printing puts production codes, use-by and best-before dates onto packaging sleeves before they are matched with the product.
This allows producers to be more flexible and cater for an increasing variety of different packaging, while using the same machine to code the products, the company said.
Shot glass dessert, knickerbocker glory, and other packaging
Richard Pether, director, Rotech, told FoodProductionDaily.com packaging has developed since the company started offline printing in the 1990s.
“What’s changed is the format of packaging, which is being designed to be more innovative and appealing,” he said.
“We had one customer who was producing a dessert in a shot glass. It’s very attractive, but there’s a sleeve the shot glass went into, and a spoon attached. It’s quite an awkward shape, and very difficult to get an inkjet printer to put the code on the pack.”
It can be hard to line up packs, sleeves and the coder on the production line, said Pether. Getting the coder in the correct position can be a challenge if the information needs to be printed on a small or difficult-to-reach area.
The risk is the code misses the target area on the packaging – or misses the pack entirely. This can potentially result in fines from retailers, or the cost to rework the packaging. The production line may have to be slowed to ensure accurate printing.
Faster production speeds
Offline systems can provide greater accuracy, faster production speeds, and more flexibility for product lines, said Pether.
“You’ve then got much better control over the sleeve in its flat format, you can present it to the printer accurately, and it’s comparatively easy,” he said.
Offline printing offers flexibility because one machine can print packaging for multiple production lines. This makes it easier for companies to produce smaller batches of product or seasonal items.
“For example, with sausage rolls for Christmas, we have a producer who wants them in a special cardboard box, a packaging format that needs a code on it,” he said. The rest of the year the trays don’t have the seasonal sleeve.
Offline coders can print flat cartons, sleeves, lidding materials and pouches.
Rotech Machines is a Hertfordshire based designer and manufacturer of feeding systems, which can be fitted with coding, labelling and product inspection systems.