Pack Expo 2014

Co-manufacturing boom sparks design challenge

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Limited time spans and short contracts means co-manufacturers have to run a variety of products on the same line, says KW
Limited time spans and short contracts means co-manufacturers have to run a variety of products on the same line, says KW

Related tags Brand owners Snack food Brand

The explosive shift towards co-manufacturing in bakery and snacks presents challenges for equipment suppliers because of a greater need for interchangeable lines, says Kliklok-Woodman (KW).

Ross Long, vice president of sales and marketing at KW, said as more brand owners turned to co-manufacturers or co-packers for product development, machinery demands heightened.

“It drives an entirely different level of demand for flexibility because as a contract manufacturer, they have limited time spans typically and they’re not ever assured they’ll have the contract or length of time that would allow them to make a bespoke, dedicated line,”​ he told at last month’s Pack Expo in Chicago.

These co-manufacturers or packers had to work with machines that could be adapted to a number of contracts coming in, he said.

Pack weights, dimension and flavors

Long said that there was a “death fight for shelf space,” particularly for bakery and snack products.

Manufacturers wanted products with a range of pack weights, which then needed alternative packaging dimensions to correspond, he said.

Janet Darnley, marketing manager at KW, said: “We call it universal packaging… Customers today have a much greater variety of formats and products – packages, package weight, for example, that they need to run at any given time.”

In addition, she said there was a raft of flavor alternations in the US snack food market which added to the need for increasing changeovers.

Long said the pressures around changeovers related to downtime but also uptime. “How fast you can accomplish the physical component of the changeover, but even more importantly how quickly after completing that format change does the system come back up to standard.”

Who to prioritize?

Asked if working with brand owners and co-manufacturers proved more difficult, Long said: “I don’t think so. I think the brand owner and contract manufacturer or packer are very in line. So it’s not as if we’re trying to serve two masters with opposing ideas.”

“Our first attention is given to the global brand owners of the best-known baking and snack brands in the world. But increasingly, they’re engaging us to work closely with their main co-manufacturers or co-packers. So, the brand owner still has control over package design, format and thinks like that, but they offload the execution to the contract-manufacturers… For us, we believe that the brand owner holds the keys,” ​he added. 

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