Latest News

Fresh ideas for soft fruit packaging automation

Worldwide environmental concerns are impacting on every part of the food industry and the soft fruit sector is no exception. With initiatives to reduce packaging waste and packaging weight to the fore, producers are under pressure to adopt alternative packaging methods to meet the needs of retailers.

And they are also under pressure to maximise profits as they cope with increased costs.

Until recently, the traditional packaging format for fresh produce was a plastic punnet with a clip-on lid. However recently there has been a move towards using recycled materials to increase sustainability and now the pressure is on from the retail sector to take a fresh look at packaging.

And with the move to reduce packaging weight high on the list of changes the sector is looking for, British packaging machinery manufacturer Packaging Automation Ltd (PA) — distributed in Australia by MPI — has come up with a novel idea for delivering solutions.

PA’s sales manager Neil Ashton said: “We are starting to see changes in this sector with a move towards new pack formats and a wider range of materials in use. A reduction in overall pack weight is a key driver behind this development. Changing from a clip-on lid to a top web sealed tray with low gauge film is one way this is being achieved.

“Tray manufacturers are also looking to down gauge the tray and reducing flange widths to decrease pack weight even further. All these changes bring challenges for machinery manufacturers – they must be able to design reliable and easy to use equipment which gives a perfect seal every time.

“At PA we are designers first and foremost and our machines have a cleverly designed top tool to meet this need. At the same time, producers need to be able to find quick and reliable solutions and support when they decide to change. Different retailers may have different requirements in terms of tray material, tray format, lidding substaight, registered or plain film requirements etc – and our machines must be able to deal with all these variables.

“This is a sector when our hire deals are particularly beneficial. Because of the seasonality of production, a grower does not want a machine standing idle in the pack house out of season. We can supply the right equipment on attractive short term hire deals to cope with increased production at specific times of year around harvest.

“Next season, producers can benefit from hiring our latest machine – the eco-cut – which offers reduced film waste, increased production speed with less downtime as well as the capacity to work with lower gauge film so helping in reducing pack weight.”

Customer trials have shown that it can seal 8200 trays from just one reel of film compared with 4440 trays on a conventional tray sealer running on the same line – and this, combined with the ability to use lower gauge film down to 15 microns, helps to achieve significant cost reductions.

Many companies are already benefiting from the PA approach. The Dorset Blueberry company in the UK for example has selected PA equipment on hire each year since 2004. This year when they changed from a PVC punnet to a more environmentally friendly rPET tray they were confident that PA’s equipment would prove the ideal solution.

And in Scotland, when Geoffrey Bruce Ltd needed to move from clip-on lids to sealed trays because its retail customer wanted improved safety and tamper evident packaging, it turned to PA and hired a Vision 400 tray sealer.

Director Geoff Bruce was delighted with the top quality service including quick response and efficient completion of the order. He said: “The beauty is that PA took complete ownership of the project – they carried out all the trials, made any alterations needed and managed the whole installation from start to finish.”

Concluding, Ashton said: “Packaging in the soft fruit sector is changing and producers need to be ready to adapt quickly. Reduced pack weights, recycled materials and tamper evident packs are all becoming essential in helping producers respond to what the retailers want. With PA they know they have a packaging partner who can respond quickly with the equipment and support needed. ”

Packaging Automation UK Ltd was established in 1963 and manufactures tray sealing machinery for the food industry. In 2004, the company signed an exclusive distribution agreement with MPI for the distribution of the full Packaging Automation range of equipment in Australia.

MPI, based in Sydney, is one of Australia’s foremost suppliers of packaging systems, with over 40 years experience in the industry.


Naresh Aggarwal, sales manager

02 9648 3011

Send this to a friend