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Adopting innovative packaging systems creates advantages for those willing to do so early

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Select Equip continues to work successfully across food and beverage manufacturing by anticipating which emerging systems and innovations will work best for its clients. Adam McCleery writes.

Unlike some other industries, the importance of packaging in the food and beverage industry is so important it can make or break a product.

That’s why companies like Select Equip, specialists in packaging system technologies and innovation, continue to find success in the market.

The company focuses on five key areas; case-ready meat, ready meals, snacking on the go, produce, and dairy sectors. By doing so it’s able to source and develop packaging systems that can be seamlessly transitioned from one sector to another utilising learned experience from one industry and adapting to another.

For example, the company’s specialist knowledge on skin packing is used across multiple sectors including Case Ready meats and ready meals. While also creating a more efficient product by limiting the steps in the process.

Because of its approach, Select Equip has built a reputation as a specialist in packaging systems that are not only innovative and more sustainable, but ‘future proofed’, as James White, sales and marketing director at Select Equip, said.

“We are targeted in what we do and everything that we do is integrated together so it can all work seamlessly,” said White.

“And because we are targeted in the sectors we work in; it also means we have dedicated systems to those markets and know them well so we can guide and consult our customers to get the best ROI results for them.”

Packaging continues to be a space where manufacturers and producers can reduce on plastic waste, an issue which continues to dominate the industry.

“New packaging and packaging equipment technology deliver many benefits, from a reduction in plastics consumption, in some cases up to 50 to 80 per cent, to overall operating efficiency and reduction in energy use,” said White.

“All our new systems delivered in the past five years have the latest energy-efficient electronics and drives.

“Reducing packaging consumption is one piece of the puzzle, but you also need to have system that run on minimum energy.”

systemsAs the industry continues to move towards new sustainability targets, packaging is proving one area where inroads can be made quickly if the right equipment & processes are adopted early.

“New equipment should be designed to meet tomorrow’s needs, not just today’s,” said White. “If you see the speed of change that can happen in some sectors it’s important that large capital equipment is capable of change – to handle different materials, & different pack formats as retailer and end consumer requirements change”

This concept is one that Select Equip abides by strictly.

The company’s key suppliers have been focused on plastic reduction for the past decade, which has allowed it to keep its clients ahead of the curve by helping them to adopt systems that can adapt to emerging systems and technology.

Another emerging innovation that White believes will have an impact on the industry is the use of rigid tray-forming machines coupled with a zero-waste top film system you cannot produce a cheaper rigid pack with less plastic.

The Mondini Platformer is one of these rigid tray forming machines, which are designed to create a wide range of tray sizes and shapes. The Platfomer when forming reduces plastic waste to only 2-3 per cent, which means its environmental impact is reduced, compared to incumbent system on the market that produce 10-12% waste as a minimum.

. It also reduces logistics, storage, and double handling of pre-made trays from an external supplier, that has an overall CO2 reduction as well.

White also highlighted paperseal technology as a key example of the success of selecting the right capital equipment, which can be easily evolved for emerging packaging systems.

Paperseal is a paper-based tray that was designed so that the end product runs with the same level of efficiency and shelf life as a standard preformed plastic tray. Adding to that, paperseal also reduces plastic waste in the base by 80 per cent.

“Paperseal when used for fixed weight case ready meat packs also negates the need for additional labelling . This gives a twofold benefit,” said White saving in packaging and reduction in equipment along the line.

As a result, the technology was awarded the Australian Institute of Packaging Silver for Sustainable Packaging Design.

The Sustainable Packaging category is designed to recognise companies that have developed innovative packaging or processing solutions that incorporate sustainability considerations.

The Covid pandemic amongst other things is also causing labour shortages, due to people being unable to work due to illness or simply not enough labour, the opportunity that this is creating is companies need to automate more, White said.

“Pre COVID, ROI was generally 12-18 months. Now that’s out the window, as clients need to buy automated plant as they cannot get the required number of people to run lines, so they are investing in automation regardless of the ROI,” he said.

“The end effect for those that can afford it will be more productive and efficient factories post the pandemic.”

Paperseal, and a host of other innovations, are being applied to the ready-meals sector, which has seen growth during the pandemic period due to changing consumer trends.

Select Equip already has a large presence in the ready-meal sector, with some of the largest producers working with the company.

By working with some of the most prolific producers of ready meals in Australia, Select Equip has added insight into the trends and growth opportunities in the sector.

“Chilled ready meals, we believe, will continue to grow at 20 plus per cent per annum,” said White. “Due to COVID-19, people are buying more ready meals than ever before, mostly driven by convenience, while working from home or hesitate to go shopping this is particularly prevalent in the aged sector.”

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Coupled with the consumer’s changing ideas around what ready meals are in 2022, is the opportunity to expand the sector because of new and innovative packaging systems that can extend the shelf life of the product.

“The biggest challenges for the chilled ready-meals sector in Australia have been shelf life, distribution distance is an issue, the adoption of skin packing technology has helped, coupled with online B2C sales negates the need to for distribution centres used by large retailers, the result is consumers get meals direct for the kitchen.

A direct result of growing consumer interest in ready meals has also resulted in producers and manufacturers reassessing the viability of investing in the sector. White said online B2C has also helped with that.

The rise of people ordering ready-meals online, indicates the appeal of breaking into the ready-meals sector without the help of traditional supermarket chains.

In most cases a ready meals manufacturer would not see the proceeds from sales in supermarkets until sometime after, a standard practise, but with online the company can connect directly with the consumer for higher margins.

And with one of the most critical factors in successful ready meals being packaging systems, Select Equip is experiencing successes parallel to the sector.

“We have been successful due to our ability to delivery systems that can be expanded as the client grows and needs more efficiency and productivity,” said White.

“We have a range of product filling systems from semi auto to fully automatic with MHW or integration of robotics, so we are capable of coming up with a solution that best suits our client needs today with a clear plan of how to grow the system as their market grows.”

White said Select Equip’s expertise in building flexible systems and equipment capable of evolving with new innovations as a critical factor in helping to build a company’s success in the food and beverage sector.

An emphasis on long-term thinking, coupled with integrated system designs, can lead to greater efficiency and sustainability and in the current industry climate, efficiency and sustainability are king.

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