Like the market for bacon, bacon packaging has evolved and grown, based on new technologies and tastes. That evolution isn’t a revolution, but there have been improvements in materials and equipment that enable processors to get from production to shipments to distributors, foodservice operators and retailers.
Much of the impetus for bacon packaging improvements and additions has come from growing demand and production needs. “That’s been the biggest driver in both foodservice and retail – call it tonnage per square foot,” says Drew Ward, CEO of Souderton, Pennsylvania-based Packaging Progressions Inc. (pacproinc), which provides bacon packaging interleavers, counters and stackers, among other solutions.
“Throughput increase is one of the biggest issues,” agrees Natalie Schmid, product market manager for Multivac’s thermoformer division and an account manager in sales.
In the traditional – and still common – L-board-style of bacon packaging, bacon manufacturers have been looking for a little help to speed the process along. That demand has led pacproinc to introduce a new bacon card flap folder and turner, as part of its bacon systems. “It’s really getting at the requirement for automation in the plant, which is directly labor related and quality related,” Ward says.
The new folder and turner sits between the bacon card dispenser for L-boards and the diverter that diverts portions for rework. “Traditionally, it has been a manual process to turn the card and fold the flap. We’re automating that process in response to processors who want to figure out not just how to automate packaging processing, but hand it off, too. We are seeing end-to-end automation, which has been harder in the past because bacon bellies vary in size and in fat-to-lean content,” Ward explains.
Throughput is also boosted for printed film formats, Schmid notes. She says that Multivac has focused on its unloading system to help processors move things along. “The major difference is the use of more integration, including integration on loading conveyor that helps with labor intensity,” Schmid says. Multivac’s R 595 thermoforming packaging machine – used to package bacon in flexible film – is also designed to minimize footprint, another concern among processors; the company’s R 565 thermoforming packaging machine is geared for large output quantities of skin packaging for bacon.
Greater integration also reduces other issues, like leakage, she adds. “We have a system that slides the product straight into the package,” Schmid notes.