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Safe, easy-care, sustainable: The early childhood food pack of the future
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

27 June 2023

Safe, easy-care, sustainable: The early childhood food pack of the future

Growing consumer demand for sustainable products pushed Kraft Heinz to reconsider the packaging of its fruit puree snacks and meat and vegetable snacks for the international market. Both Heinz and its Plasmon baby food branded products are produced in a historic factory in Latina, Italy. Nowadays, snacks are available in easy-care pouches with re-sealable caps made of plastic mono-material – and therefore easily recyclable – and packed in cardboard boxes and displays that reduce the environmental impact of the product considerably. The project by the US-based international company covered various steps of the chain of production – from the selection of 100% raw materials of Italian origin to the cooking and filling process, where they shifted from the traditional thermal system to aseptic filling. Such a change also had an important impact on the production lines, bringing a significant benefit on the energy efficiency front, today extremely critical and, at the same time, strategic for production companies. “Just to give an idea of the global impact of this project, suffice to consider that the volume produced exceeds 3,000 tons per year, corresponding to more than 30 million pouches produced with a variety of 56 recipes including fruit, meat and dessert,” explained Enrico Pucci, engineering project manager (consultant) – Latina, The Kraft Heinz Company. “The degree of product innovation is proven by some targets like first world producer of baby food in 100% recyclable aseptic pouches, the first manufacturer of fully recyclable pouches on the Italian market and the highly-rated acknowledgement UK Packaging Awards 2022 – Highly Commended in the Flexible Plastic Pack of the Year 2022 class.” He added: “It is also impossible not to mention the benefit in terms of packaging material reduction: we calculated a saving of 250 tons of plastic per year”. This a project worth sharing, accomplished with the involvement of partners like Cft for process machinery, Ima for the aseptic chain of production, and Cama and Clevertech for packaging and end-of-line, respectively. These are all excellent Italian companies in their core business at a global level. Here, we going to tell you about Cama and Clevertech, both part of the Smart Packaging Hub, which offer ad hoc designed and implemented secondary and tertiary packaging solutions. Secondary packaging and end-of-line: An innovative and integrated solution An integrated packaging and end-of-line system were developed by Clevertech, a specialist in the design of end-of-line integrated solutions for various industries, including the food and beverage sector. The company took care of the relationship with Kraft Heinz as a single point of contact to deliver a turnkey system. “With our solution, we contribute largely to the production of the goods and take it to the last stage, that of logistics to deliver the product to the point of sale, and hence to the consumer,” said Luca Carollo, Clevertech business development and key account Kraft Heinz. “For implementing the pouches packaging system, we involved Cama, a leader in secondary packaging machines and integrated systems, which developed a very innovative proposal.” The system can package 240 pouches/minute with an upgrade to 360 pouches/minute. The fully automated solution includes two parallel operating wrap-around units that can manage different formats of pouches, in different units, producing both boxes and display trays to sell single items. The project expansion plans to integrate a third unit to increase the packaging speed to 360 ppm. "Today's machine suppliers must be able to ensure that the system can be expanded to meet future needs of the client, thus ensuring an easy return on investment (ROI),” stated Carollo. The system includes an end-of-line and palletising section, designed by Clevertech, and applies a concept that revolutionises the traditional end-of-line layout. A synergy of skills The rationale behind the Smart Packaging Hub – six companies with particular skills and know-how of the packaging supply chain – is to act as a multifunctional supplier that is able to meet the requirements of most multinational consumer goods companies, which prefer a single point of contact. “The strength of this collaboration is also found in its ability to suggest the best solution while evolving the client-supplier relationship pattern – from selling a solution to implementing a system that is not only custom-made but also offers benefits in terms of ROI, thanks to a different approach and listening to the client," added Carollo. In this setting, Clevertech can read automation and implement fully robotised lines, while Cama manufactures cutting-edge packaging machines and develops in-house skills to design saving-inspired innovative packaging. Sustainability led to the re-design of secondary packaging The development of primary packaging from a green perspective also led to a redesign of the packaging for retail, based on the same criteria and to obtain top flexibility. “It is just here where we maximised the cooperation between client and supplier, when Cama, with its know-how, could support the entire process from designing cases and boxes to selecting the material, hence realising the added value of Smart Packaging Hub to our full satisfaction,” said Pucci. “Single pouches of different formats – from 85g to 220g – are packed vertically in a four to six pouches case that is also a tray to sell loose pouches. In turn, cases can be packed in a larger box also to be used as a display to sell cases and, at the same time acting as a tertiary packaging that makes transport on pallets easier,” explained Sergio Cornago, sales manager at Cama. He added: “A client submits a request, and with our system engineering team, we realise a design that meets their requirements and is compatible with the machines that will process the packaging”. The in-house development of packaging is a requirement that identifies Cama among packaging machine manufacturers. Another important point is a range of different machine types – side loading and top loading – that allow the development of extremely creative packaging solutions. The end-of-line is now functional for logistics Another important innovation of the project covers the location of the palletising system; as suggested by the Clevertech technical team, contrary to what was mentioned by the client, they located the system next to the finished product warehouses, hence reducing the transfer cost by means of lift trucks and obtaining an ROI. "Again, the technical contribution of the general contractor Clevertech made it possible to optimise the layout, offering a clear economic and energy saving benefit,” as Pucci pointed out. In fact, a flexible product-handling machine was realised, to meet the requirement of managing different package formats. “By means of two robotised manipulators, packages of different sizes are aligned so as to automatically build a layer, that will be transferred onto a pallet,” Carollo explained. “Hereinafter, two manipulators will increase the palletising speed from 240 ppm to 360 ppm by only adding a module, without having to integrate an additional manipulator.” The integrated, complete end-of-line system includes pre-formation input transports, Cartesian pre-formation systems, pallet store and feeder, palletising, vertical frame applicator on the pallet, pallet wrapper and labelling unit. Pack ML, an interoperability standard The system developed by Cama-Clevertech meets the Pack ML requirements, an aspect of no small importance. Pack ML (Packaging Machine Language) is a technical standard of the industry to control packaging machines as part of industrial automation. It is a universal system to “write” the automation software on board the machine. Essentially, they are guidelines that make it possible to obtain interoperable systems. “Indeed, a major achievement, as it allows analysing performance data coming from machines of different suppliers that apply Pack ML,” Carollo said. The first release – set up by a consumer product multinational company to solve machine compatibility issues – goes back to 2003; however, only today are other groups demanding systems from their suppliers that comply with Pack ML. The benefit offered by such companies as Cama and Clevertech is that they have been developing standardised Pack ML-suitable software for no less than a decade.

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