New packaging initiates will see Berry Gardens reduce plastic by 133 tonnes

Berry Gardens, a major UK supplier of berries and cherries, is set to save 133 tonnes of plastic because of new packaging initiatives adopted to help reduce the business’ reliance on plastic. The company is leading the way in reducing plastic in berry punnets thanks to its unique grower-owned model. As such, all packaging suppliers used by growers are approved centrally, meaning all Berry Gardens grower-members will commit to using all-new packaging moving forward. Berry Gardens have championed a range of different packaging initiatives trialled this year, including working with Sharpak Aylesham, a subsidiary of Group Guillin, one of Europe’s largest packaging solution manufacturers. The partnership saw the launch of SP AirLite, a range of groundbreaking recyclable strawberry punnets with a protected design which mitigates the need for bubble pads, reducing the plastic weight featured in core punnets in an industry first. In addition to the removal of the bubble pad, the mono-material punnets containing high recycled content were redesigned with a plastic weight reduction of between 18-20% over the current packs, saving hundreds of tonnes of plastic. This also has the advantage of delivering the plastic weight reduction that all UK retailers require as part of their ongoing responsible packaging strategies. Siobhan Parks, Head of Packaging at Berry Gardens, says: “As part of our commitment to packaging innovation we are delighted to be first to market with a range of our recent initiatives, notably our bubble-pad free strawberry punnet.” Additionally, Berry Gardens partnered with sustainable packaging manufacturer Coveris to launch a new printed lidding film containing over 30% post-consumer recyclate (PCR). The first-to-market, food safe PCR film is available nationwide across all major multiple Berry Gardens lines including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and other stone fruit. Marking a major step forward for the fresh produce packaging sector, the new recycled film reduces carbon impact by significantly offsetting the requirement for virgin polymer, removing around 53,000 tonnes from the supply-chain annually. The film also supports the 30% recycled content requirement for the 2022 plastics packaging tax with the option of up to 50% recyclate available. Nick Allen, CEO at Berry Gardens says: “We take our impact on the environment very seriously and plastic reduction is just one way the business is making more responsible choices for the future of our planet. “As an industry which has historically relied on virgin plastic, we are proud to be championing these plastic reduction initiatives and will continue to work with our growers to produce and bring to market the very best quality and tasting fresh berries, with as little impact on the environment as possible.” In addition to the above, all of Berry Gardens’ punnets will be produced using Preventative Ocean Plastic (POP) which is expected to save 204 tonnes of plastic from entering the ocean – the equivalent of 8.2 million water bottles. The new POP packaging uses ‘ocean-bound plastic’, plastic collected from beaches and coastlines which otherwise would have ended up in the ocean and features in the majority of own label punnets supplied to major UK supermarkets by Berry Gardens. Punnets will contain at least 80% recycled content, 30% of which is made up of ocean-bound plastic waste.

Yamato Scale Dataweigh helps Natures Way Foods create Europe’s largest salad production facility

Yamato Scale Dataweigh has helped Natures Way Foods to create the largest salad production facility in Europe. Yamato Scale recently completed the installation of bespoke multihead weighers and checkweigher / metal detector combi machines for Natures Way Foods at its Selsey plant in West Sussex. Natures Way Foods manufactures fresh convenient food to major UK supermarkets and food services companies. Its customers include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi and Greencore Group. Due to a continued rise in demand for its fresh bagged salads Natures Way has continued to invest and, in particular, to extend its factory in Selsey with the installation of 15 new production lines – nine in 2018 and another six in 2021. The Selsey-based salad facility now has a total of 25 production lines, 23 of which use Yamato multihead weighers and 25 with Yamato checkweigher/metal detection combi systems. The six existing G-Series are being replaced with new I Series in June 2021. The equipment, which was commissioned in January 2021, will help Natures Way grow its capacity and reputation as a specialist supplier of bagged salads, leafy salad bowls, and food-to-go products.

SICK switches up to smart versatility with next-gen SLG-2 light grids

SICK has developed its next-generation SLG-2 light grids to combine higher levels of optical performance with smart sensor capability in an ultra-slim housing. The SICK SLG-2 extends integration versatility beyond switched outputs to incorporate measurement, classification, and Smart Tasks, while also providing data for diagnostic evaluation. The SICK SLG-2 family offers a choice of resolutions and includes a crossbeam version for detection of very thin or flat objects. The addition of an IO-link interface adds extra value for machine-builders and end users, opening up new opportunities to automate food and beverage production and materials handling. Just 12mm x 24mm in size, the SICK SLG-2 light grids come in Slim or Flat variants, so they can be configured horizontally or vertically to fit snugly into machines or conveyors. They enable versatile machine and robotic integration with rapid response times that ensure completely reliable performance even at high production speeds. The SICK SLG-2 can also be integrated neatly into mechanical doors, gates and lifts. The SICK SLG-2 is therefore ideal for duties such as detecting products with irregular-shaped edges, or classifying packages of multiple heights on a conveyor. The addition of IO-Link extends the SICK SLG-2’s capabilities to include height, width, and length measurement. It enables individual beams to be controlled or blanked, as well as the feedback of diagnostic information for condition monitoring. A Smart Task is available to set zones to solve product classification and quality applications. Zoning also avoids the costly cabling needed to configure multiple photocells, an advantage for example in entry and exit applications such as industrial doors and gates. “Whether you are designing a new machine or want to replace an existing light grid to take advantage of IO-Link functionality, the SICK SLG-2 offers exceptional versatility at this price/performance level,” says David Hannaby, SICK’s UK Product Manager for Presence Detection. “With IO-Link, the SLG-2 can not only provide height, length and width values, it can also detect an object’s position in the light grid. It can output information on the status of every single beam and offers all the benefits of real-time diagnostics to monitor operational status and quality of run.” The SICK SLG-2 Slim and Flat come with 10mm, 25mm or 50mm beam spacing and can detect objects with a height of between 100mm and 2400mm. SICK’s patented new optical technology ensures the SLG’s operation is immune to interference from cross talk, reflections, or ambient light conditions. The SLG-2 achieves response times as fast as 2.1ms depending on the number of beams. The compact SICK SLG-2 Slim and Flat make mounting simple, using either sliding nuts or quick-mounting accessories, with options for M8 or M12 4-pin cable connections. Set up is easy via with the option to use an external teach-in button on the device.

British drinks manufacturer celebrates 30 years and launch of dozens of new products

Award-winning water and soft drinks manufacturer Radnor Hills has had a busy 12 months. The company, which is based in the old county of Radnorshire in Mid Wales and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, seized on the pandemic as a chance to innovate and launch over 40 new products. It produced a record 350 million units of products, saw turnover grow by 30% and, during the peak of the pandemic, secured four new listings with national retailers. Innovations during COVID-19 included launching a series of new products in various eco-friendly packaging options and creating the UK’s first vitamin D flavoured spring water in Tetra Pak®, to help increase daily intake of this vital vitamin, which it has been trialling with a Welsh care home. The company, which creates spring and flavoured waters, functional and infused waters, school compliant drinks, premium sparkling pressés, fruit juices and own label brands, also pivoted and opened its first direct to consumer shop via Amazon and its own online shop so customers could carry on receiving their supply of soft drinks during lockdown. Its new Radnor Infusions Lemon & Mint drink has recently received a highly commended award in this year’s The Grocer New Product Awards. The company, which is already a ‘zero to landfill’ manufacturing site, is working on a new 10-year environmental strategy to build on the work which led to them being presented with the Made in Wales Awards ‘Sustainable and Ethical Manufacturer Award’ in 2019. Last year, it made a large investment into their production line to double capacity and installed a new pasteurizer and cooling tower to reduce their water usage. It installed new smart conveyors which save energy and a robot to help with palletisation. A new packing machine allows them to pack products in multiple formats for whatever their customers require. In an industry first, it uses a 30% recycled plastic shrink wrap to protect their products. Founder and Managing Director William Watkins, 55, a fifth-generation farmer who diversified and established Radnor Hills in 1991 with a £25,000 match-funded Welsh Government grant, says the company has always prided itself on taking every opportunity and developing it. “COVID taught us that online retail is the future. It was quite a revelation how happy our customers are to buy their soft drinks online and direct from us rather than going to a supermarket. Our Tetra Pak sales rocketed during the pandemic,” he said. “Innovation is at the heart of our business and we like to listen and respond to our customers. We know how important it is for our whole industry to offer sustainable packaging – we have to get this right – and we’re proud of the options we give to our consumers. ‘We’re the only production site in Wales to have the capability of bottling in glass, recycled plastic, aluminium can and Tetra Pak all on one site. “It’s very unusual to have rural and high tech next to each other, but we have invested in cutting edge, fast and technical machinery and robotics that can produce 400 million products across our portfolio. “It allows us to produce a whole range of great tasting Welsh spring water and soft drinks in all kinds of formats using the beautifully naturally filtered water that flows underneath us. “We are passionate about our environmental responsibilities and careful to ensure that everything we extract is sustainable. This includes our commitment to ensure that we minimise our packaging requirements and work towards a system that recycles our bottles and packaging. “We are working with all our stakeholders to create a cleaner, greener future. And we recycle everything, even ensuring our waste water is cleaned and in a pristine condition before we send it to the river. “As a Welsh business we love to be associated with Wales and the stunning surroundings. I’m very proud to send our beautiful products made in the heart of Radnorshire out across the UK. I believe we have some of the best looking and best tasting products in their categories and they positively portray the area they have come from. “Over the last thirty years, we have created a business that not only champions the beauty of our county, but which creates a career structure and a future for the people who work here. Our people, our community and our products will continue to be just as important to us over the next three decades.” The Watkins family still farms the land around Heartsease Farm where the spring water is taken from and the company is headquartered. Over 2,000 lambs were born on the farm this Spring and it recently re-introduced Welsh Black cows, a breed of cattle native to Wales and one of the oldest in Britain, going back to pre-Roman times, to the farm.

Macsa ID UK launches new iCON 3 small character laser coder

Macsa ID UK, leading manufacturer of high performance coding and marking equipment, has launched the iCON 3 small character laser coder aimed at the food, pharmaceutical, beverage, cosmetics and homecare markets. This latest generation system is more reliable and efficient than its predecessor with enhancements designed to further reduce carbon footprint whilst improving coding quality. Like all previous Macsa iCON models, the iCON 3 is ideal for businesses that have always wanted to switch to laser technology but been previously prevented by price. Clean, fast and consumable free, the iCON 3 is extremely affordable yet offers everything you would expect from a high performance laser coder. In fact, in just over a year the laser will have cost less than an inkjet system. The iCON 3 is suitable for a wide range of sectors. It codes cleanly and permanently on food packaging and is capable of marking water, wine, spirits and soft drink beverage containers produced from PET or glass. The iCON 3 also meets the high standards of the pharmaceutical industry and will code labels, tubes and boxes. Macsa’s iCON 3 benefits from a number of key improvements including a new handheld terminal that is more than just a touchscreen. It is the operator’s point of access to all the functionalities of the laser and to the information related to the production line. It is also much easier to use thanks to new, more intuitive software and visual aids in video format so that anyone can master the iCON 3 in no time without needing advanced technical knowledge. The laser’s new Wizard reduces set up time and the operator will be able to reduce configuration by almost 90%, avoiding the trial-error system of other equipment. Macsa’s iCON 3 incorporates a range of templates such as barcodes, expiry dates, QR codes and even datamatrix which allow the creation of messages in 50% less time than previous models. The video tutorials of the iCON 3 handheld terminal guide the operator in the maintenance of the laser, graphically and intuitively. These are maintenance tasks that take under five minutes and optimise operational efficiencies. Because of its size and compact design, the iCON 3 can be adapted for any production environment. Suitable for both dynamic and static applications, the new display enables easy control even when the laser is difficult to access directly. The iCON 3 delivers a permanent lifetime mark and does not smudge like inkjet. In addition, it works with most substrates including labels, cardboard boxes, plastics, glass, wood and textiles. Capable of producing unique and highly defined marks such as QR codes, the iCON 3 helps to enhance customer engagement. The iCON 3 does not use inks or solvents. This reduces running costs as there is no need to budget for consumables. In addition, it ensures a cleaner and more hygienic working environment, and the lack of solvent related carbon emissions and harmful waste also mean that production lines will be environmentally compliant.

New 100% recyclable single-shot sachet for the beverage sector

The Origin Group’s new business unit, SnappD is now offering the UK’s first 100% recyclable single-shot sachet which is fully brandable for the beverage sector. Small, lightweight and robust, SnappD recyclable pouches can contain up to 25ml of alcohol and can be opened and dispensed with a single hand movement. SnappD sachets, made with more than 30% Post-Consumer-Recycled materials (PCR), are manufactured and precision filled in an ISO 22716 environment, within a purpose-built room which simulates that of a cleanroom facility, in Melton, East Riding of Yorkshire. As well as being more convenient for the user, importantly, this new concept helps alcohol brands extend their reach out of home and licensed premises to the festival and travel markets where often glass or large volume bottles are restricted. The product also helps to address the challenges of the “sachet economy” which continues to generate massive quantities of plastic waste globally. Traditionally, sachets are made of multilayer plastics that cannot be separated making them practically unrecyclable. Some technologies can convert them back to oil, but you need to collect billions of sachets to make it viable. There’s currently no legislation in place in the UK or EU to tackle the environmental impact of plastic sachets, with the single-use plastics ban currently only covering plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. But beverage brands need to think ahead of the curve to avoid costly compliance challenges in future and to keep in line with changing legislation and consumer views on sustainability. SnappD also delivers eco-savings during transportation. The size and shape of SnappD sachets mean large quantities can be easily transported with minimal space wastage. For example, 250 Snapped 50×50 sachets can fit in 1 POS box – totalling up to 108,000 in one pallet. Originally designed to respond to the growing need for hygienic hand sanitiser dispensers at the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the engineers at SnappD have since redesigned the sachets to suit a wider range of applications and sectors. Designed for universal ease of use, the SnappD patented sachet is the most intuitive form of packaging on the market and can be used as part of brands’ current offering, or as samples to increase brand reach and attract new customers. Customers can choose from a variety of customised opening functions. Additionally, there is a double-cut option for brands to package two products in a dual-chamber, to be dispensed together. Any sachet size between 40×50 mm and 100×100 mm is possible, delivering a minimum filling volume of 0.2 ml and up to 40 ml depending on the product category. Pharmaceutical-grade filling system is offered for filling volumes below 0.5 ml that require more precision, and for higher shelf-life requirements, barriers of aluminium and siox silica coating are available. SnappD’s in-house design technologists will offer personal consultations to advise on the best options, using a 3D visualiser tool to maximise visual impact and reduce project timelines. Rich Quelch, Global Head of Marketing at SnappD commented: “Building on The Origin Group’s heritage of manufacturing exceptional glass packaging, plastic containers, measuring devices and child-resistant solutions, we decided that one-dose sachets were a logical extension of our product range. “Created in response to the increased demand for hand sanitiser during the coronavirus pandemic, SnappD was subsequently redesigned by our engineers to suit a wide range of applications and sectors, while supporting global efforts to reduce environmental harm from single-use plastic sachets.”

AR Packaging launches Ecoflex® mono-material for thermoformed applications

As world mono-material plastic packaging film consumption is forecast to grow during 2020–25 at an annual average rate of 3.9% to 26.03 million tonnes ($70.9 billion), AR Packaging is meeting the challenge by launching Ecoflex® – its 100% recyclable mono polyethylene film for thermoforming that provides a sustainable alternative to PA-based materials, whilst fully meeting OPRL guidelines. Designed primarily as a thermoforming base web, Ecoflex® is formulated with premium PE polymers, offering good puncture resistance, improved tear resistance and it can be used for MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) or vacuum. Offering excellent clarity and printability, the material is perfect for meat, dairy and bakery thermoformed applications and has good recyclability throughout Europe. Ecoflex® is manufactured at AR Packaging’s Highbridge-UK site. Working closely with customers, the company produces a unique range of flexible barrier packaging solutions and are specialists in extruded, thin multilayer materials. Highbridge’s products are used in both food and non-food industries, where the company ensures a high level of protection for products where material function plays a crucial element, such as a gas barrier or to offer puncture resistance. “The launch of Ecoflex® provides retailers with their sustainable material of choice,” said Greg Mitchell, technical sales manager, AR Packaging Highbridge. “Instead of a reliance on PA/PE-material for their flexible thermoformed applications, Ecoflex® is a recyclable mono PE film that offers comparative mechanical and impact strength. In the UK, for example, the material can be recycled at front-of-store recycling facilities that allow consumers to return polyolefin-based flexible packaging.” The Ecoflex® material demonstrates similar or better performance on standard thermoforming and filling lines, with the possibility of reduced temperature settings and thereby energy savings. AR Packaging’s comprehensive range of thermoformable base webs cover a multitude of applications to meet customers’ exacting needs and can be matched with one of the group’s lidding films for perfect pack integrity and process efficiency. Both base webs and lidding films are approved for food contact and can be combined with convenience features and high quality flexo printing.

Rational embraces the power of online

Rational’s online transformation helps the company broaden its support network. Eye level customer relationships at industry trade fairs and nationwide cooking demonstrations are big parts of the Rational brand reputation. By rapidly adopting online processes for the company’s communications, including navigating around the pandemic restrictions, Rational has transformed its engagement model. This has been achieved by combining both physical and digital relationships, giving customers even more accessibility to the manufacturer. “It quickly became clear that we could turn this sudden and unexpected challenge to our traditional mindset into opportunities to find new ways to engage with customers,” says Adam Knights, Rational’s marketing director. This begun with the product launch of the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro cooking systems.  Just weeks away from a planned live spectacle, lockdown restrictions forced Rational to launch the products to a wide-reaching audience using digital platforms. The positive response to the successful digital launch galvanised the marketing team, giving them the confidence to explore the power of online further. Alongside a series of newly created videos introducing their cooking systems, Rational developed a series of interactive online webinars aimed at providing chefs from different sectors of the industry with specific and relevant information to their needs. Mr Knights continues: “Naturally we couldn’t replicate the smell, taste, and experience of our live demonstrations, so we looked at what alternative benefits we could bring to this new Rational experience. One of the most valuable things for our customers is their time.” With Rational holding events online, as opposed to on site, a greater number of people from the same workplace could attend without hindering their daily operation. Meanwhile their time commitment was reduced, since they didn’t have to travel, and as they were being presented with sector specific information, customers knew that the time spent would be relevant and valuable. “Our goal was to be informative and supportive, whilst retaining efficiencies for the customer,” says Mr Knights. “By going digital we were able to stream the new Rational experiences directly into their place of work or home, via their PCs, phones, or tablets. As a result, the number of digital event attendees this year to date has exceeded the total number that attended live events for the entirety of 2019.” Continuing the company’s digital journey, Rational launched Expert Chef seminars. The first seminar in the series saw one of the UK’s most influential Indian chefs, Rehan Uddin of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network (ARON), showing how Rational’s cooking systems can replicate traditional Indian cooking techniques as well as allowing chefs the freedom to experiment with different methods. Following a particularly turbulent year for the foodservice and hospitality industry, Rational also launched regular seminars with expert panels discussing hot industry topics. “As well as the expert panel knowledge, we get the live feedback and questions from attendees which helps bring these perspectives right up to date,” says Adam. “Being able to bring the industry together like this not only helps us to understand our customers’ needs but also, we hope, helps to inspire and encourage them,” says Mr Knights. Having attended an online event, customers who would like to know more about Rational cooking systems have the opportunity to participate in a live demonstration, held in a local venue. This allows them to experience the Rational cooking systems first-hand, supported by a Rational professional chef. Mr Knights believes the potential for digital events is enormous. “The new Rational experiences help us keep our finger on the pulse of what’s really happening in the industry. “Rational has always been a chef’s company, so anything that helps us recognise the challenges and pressures chefs are facing is invaluable. The more we understand, the more we can help.”

Cost of gov regulation will mean higher food prices for consumers, warns FDF

Consumers will inevitably face higher food and drink prices if manufacturers are forced to absorb the cost of proposed Government policies during the next few years, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has warned. In the report, entitled ‘Eating into household budgets: the Government’s recipe for food price inflation’, the FDF has estimated that if the cost of forthcoming Government policies were passed on directly to consumers, it would increase the price of food and drink shopping per household by more than £160 per year. What’s more, it suggests poorer socio-economic households would see their shopping bills increase by 11%, the same proportion of their entire food shop which is currently spent on fresh vegetables. According to ONS estimates, a household of one adult and one child in the poorest 10% by income spends £45 per week on food and drink, meaning the Government’s proposals could lead to an increase in food and drink spending of nearly 7%. Over the last twenty years, food and drink manufacturers have worked tirelessly to absorb increases in the cost of raw materials, while ensuring the impact of these price pressures are not passed directly onto consumers. Now, with no margin left to offset the raft of costly Government policies coming down the line, manufacturers will have to pass that cost directly on to consumers. The FDF calculates that the cost to the food and drink industry of proposed UK Government policies around public health and sustainability is at least £8 billion. This is before factoring in the suggested taxes on salt and sugar as outlined in Henry Dimbleby’s recent National Food Strategy report. These additional costs from Government policies also come at a time of rising global inflationary pressures. The policies include the reforming of Extended Producer responsibility for the disposal of post-consumer goods (£1.7bn), a Deposit Return Scheme on food and drink packaging (£850m), and the introduction of promotional restrictions on HFSS foods (£833m). The FDF is calling on the Government to reconsider these policies and their unintended consequences, as well as fundamental reforms to the UK’s regulatory architecture, in order to ensure future policy is effective and well-targeted. It also argues that in the long-term any additional costs will likely increase indebtedness, reduce competitiveness and see investment decline, particularly at a time when businesses are seeking to recover from a difficult period of economic uncertainty. Food and drink is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, and if the Government is serious about levelling up it needs to incentivise the sector and not pile on extra costs. 97% of all food and drink businesses are SMEs, and it is they who are more greatly exposed to these risks. “Food and drink manufacturers are close to breaking point. Through the last 16 months our workers have made truly heroic efforts to keep the country fed. Yet now they face a combination of challenges which threaten to deliver food price inflation to already hard-pressed households,” said Ian Wright CBE, FDF Chief Executive. “We absolutely accept the need to address the pressing concerns around sustainability and obesity. Our members are doing so on an epic scale through active commitments to net zero and reformulation. The Government needs to understand the costs of the changes it is demanding and the impact it would have on the cost of household food and drink shopping. “The suggestion that we should introduce further food taxes at this time is madness. It is an insult to the hardworking families of this country to be told what to do by those who can’t begin to imagine how tough the last year has been. “The UK enjoys a fantastic range of food and drink at a range of price-points. Our industry has done an incredible job of keeping that cost low for the last three decades. But that period is now at an end. “Double digit percentage increases in food expenditure for the poorest households are highly likely in the coming years unless the Government pauses to the consider the consequences of its plans.”

Kite announce eco-friendly ecommerce innovation with new returnable mailing bags

The rapid growth of ecommerce has caused an inevitable soar in demand for easy returns. By reusing the original packaging, the environmental impact of a return is reduced by a minimum of half; Kite Packaging has launched sustainable kraft mailing bags to diminish this impact even further. These packages are manufactured from FSC certified kraft which is sustainably sourced and grants the mailers superior strength to other papers. A heavy-duty material is essential for an item designed for reuse by a customer, though brown kraft is also 100% recyclable to ensure responsible disposal. This is guaranteed to significantly reduce a company’s carbon footprint while enhancing their green credentials. The expandable gusseted sides offer extra capacity to fit a considerable range of different products while arriving flat-packed for convenient storage. To allow for effortless packing and returns, Kite’s product features a double peel and seal strip: one for securing an order to be delivered and the second should the goods need to be returned. The perforated easy tear opening provides excellent user satisfaction at the unboxing stage that is continued until the end of the transaction with this intuitive design. Encourage consumers to shop with confidence, reassured by a user-friendly returns process that promotes repeat sales and all-round positive transactions.