There’s more to pack integrity than meets the eye

The days of careless wrapping of packaged food and drink bound for retail are all but over, as large supermarket and grocery chains force ever greater liabilities on suppliers who take short cuts, writes Nelson Joyce & Co’s Nelson Joyce.

With packaging integrity such a key factor for product placed on shelves, the tiniest blemish or dent during transit renders an item ‘un-sellable’, and the burden is instantly shifted back by powerful retailers to the supplier.

There are so many examples, but bottled water and other drinks is an excellent case in point.

Deep down the majority of operators view their packaging as a cost impost rather than an asset, and this sets off problems. The solution, though, is rather more straightforward. Although each case will differ, it is simply a matter of being shown ‘how’.

There is a proper, ‘engineered’ approach to packaging that is designed to ensure any business can derive a good margin at all levels – being mindful that there is a chain of events that make up the packing and transporting process.

The likes of Coles, Woolworths and other powerful retail giants have very strict rejection criteria to protect their own quality standards and aesthetics, so suppliers need to be wary of the situation.

There is such strong competition to be on the shelf space of the retail giants, so the retailers themselves have to protect their own visual standards and bottled drinks are a very good example of a product line that’s often rejected and returned to suppliers.

As a packaging specialist, we are regularly consulted by suppliers whose palletised goods have suffered some sort of change before or during shipment and thus paid the price. For instance, if a mineral water supplier’s pallet moved under its shrink wrap during transport and bottles were bumped so that, say, the tops and necks were bent inwards, the retailer will not place them on the shelves, it will reject the pallet, plus it is highly likely to charge for the space on the shelves reserved for it.

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It may sound like rough justice, but the retailers run operations based on margins and quantity sales and will not have time to replace that product with anything else, so the supplier suffers the penalty – which is likely to be written into the agreement.

The importance of an engineered approach is even more prominent in the regional areas where freighting takes even longer and a Plan B is almost always out of the question.

It is like a demurrage cost in the transport game where the stock movement failures by one party will not be suffered as incurred charges by another.

Even an evaluation of a packaging line – which is an inexpensive exercise – can identify so many shortfalls and provide answers as to how a supplier can professionalise, increase quality and speed up its own packaging and delivery systems.

Various emerging packaging technologies can protect against such incidents; cheap stretch wrap should be avoided, versatile and cost-identifiable machines can replace slow, wasteful and substandard manual wrapping.

Retail-ready packaging often is ignored because of the multi-faceted approach it requires; for instance, fill form and seal/rewind films and machines, barrier products, carton liners, separation sheets, crate liners, carcass covers and all other manner of products are affordable and can make the ultimate difference in maintaining a profitable supply line free of mishaps.

Again, the bottled water sector is such a good case study on this issue. A place that packs bottled water needs to ensure its product is presented to customers in a uniform way. The moment a single item moves out of alignment during transit, it can pop out and cause damage to more of the shipment – and bear in mind this type of item can be moved five or six times depending on its final destination.

From warehouse to secondary handlers and finally to retailers, restaurants and cafes, it is multi-handled and suppliers need to protect the integrity and clarity of each pack, making sure no deformation takes place.

Once plastic bottle necks are turned inwards, they are harder to stock properly. Even to take a basic re-evaluation of their heat-induced wrapping systems can make an enormous difference. In some cases, we have found that reducing heat from 200°C to 175°C and increasing the rate of pack movements through blow formers and fillers etc will optimise your bundle shrink systems and positively affect overall productivity and transport quality.

We have seen in so many food and beverage handling plants that making such straightforward analysis of the entire supply procedure can increase speed and efficiency by 30 percent, plus protect the packaging integrity.

Nelson Joyce & Co is an importer, converter and distributors of flexible packaging products, based in Sydney’s Seven Hills.
 

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