The IML concept is not new but the adoption of in-mold labeling in injection molding has not been as widespread in the US as it has been in Europe.
Companies have in the past been deterred from making a change in the manufacturing process and the investment associated with such change but the advantages include eliminating the need for a secondary process, reduction in WIP (work in-process) and reduction in scrap rates.
“We are seeing much more demand for IML in the food and confectionery market and it’s a fascinating process. Plastic is overall more cost effective compared to alternative materials, such as glass and metal cans,” said Mark Seddon, general manager, RPC Oakham.
“It hasn’t seen as much intake in the US yet because when they produce things from plastic, they tend to be a little bit heavier which affects shipping requirements from east to west but in mainland Europe we are always striving to reduce weight.
“It’s a better route to take because you don’t need to employ someone to apply a self-adhesive label to a container. IML injection molding is all done in one process on-site.”
The 200PS 2.5L injection-molded tub is manufactured by RPC Oakham, which employs over 7,000 people and has over 50 factories across Europe, through a third party supplier. It celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.
Customers who use its containers include Brakes, grocery and fresh food suppliers to pubs, restaurants and education establishments, 366, food and drink, catering suppliers and Chef’s Larder.
“The RPC Oakham containers are ideal for the Chefs’ Selections range, and the option to decorate using IML made everything easier,” said Nick Redford, Caterforce.
Seddon added the main challenges within the industry were trying to make lightweight products than are lighter than standard ones.
“It’s about taking a fairly unattractive piece of packaging and transforming it into something which sell well, which looks eye-catching and sits well on the supermarket shelf,” he said.
“When you apply IML you get amazing graphics and reproduction of an image or a picture. With Caterers we’ve used a colour on the label and matched this to the lid which works very well in uniting the colour of the whole product.”
With a combined turnover in excess of £300 million, Caterforce works with several food service wholesalers including Pioneer Foodservice, Pilgrim Foodservice, Castell Howell Foods, Lynas Foodservice, Hunts Foodservice and Phillip Dennis Foodservice.