Whitefields Produce, a processor of carrots for the UK supermarket sector, has adopted a new packing system. The company needed to change from traditional bagging to a more advanced vertical form fill and seal packing system to meet increased demand.
The firm, which processes thousands of tons of vegetables a year, selected the Etna Hi-Tec machine from Ulma Packaging. The equipment provider claims that the Etna can operate at speeds of up to 80 packs per minute, while traditional bagging methods can often be half as slow.
Whitefields managing director Rachel Wheble said that the company also chose the Etna because of its compact footprint and easy maintenance. The machine also benefits from being fully servo driven and is virtually service free.
"Initially we were a little bit apprehensive in making the change, but the pressure was on from within the industry," said Wheble. "As with any new installation in a busy environment, we thought that there might be some initial teething problems, but the machine has been working with 100 per cent reliability."
This is an important consideration for a vegetable processor in the EU. There is a great deal of pressure from retailers on processors to cut costs and increase efficiency and in addition, EU food laws mean that the manufacturing of fruit and vegetables in the bloc has become highly regulated.
According to EU law for example, fresh fruit and vegetables sold in the same package must be of uniform quality. And sales packages of fresh fruit and vegetables of a net weight of three kilograms or less may contain mixes of different types of fresh fruit and vegetables provided that the products are of uniform quality and that each type concerned complies with EU standards.
The marking on sales packages must show the name and address of the packer, and the country of origin of each of the products concerned.
Whitefields believes that the installation of new processing and packaging machinery will enable the firm to meet these requirements while increasing efficiency.
"All these drivers - legislation, consumer concerns, supermarket pressure - mean that if you can put a system in place that will enable you to react better to demands, make your manufacturing process more agile and make you better suited to retailers and consumers, then you will," Matthew Holland, MES product manager for Siemens UK told FoodProductionDaily.com.