Bagging a growing market

Steriflow in Vanuatu
April 1, 2014

FreshFoods factory manager Ramon Alvarez, Mespic owner Fabio Garavini, and Esko Director Paul Asciak in the newly automated factory

FreshFoods embarked on a packaging automation overhaul to meet growing demand in the coffee bag segment

The face of coffee in Australia is changing, and convenience is king for consumers. With this in mind, many are waking up to the fact that coffee-in-a-bag is a strong proposition. And The House of Robert Timms is largely responsible for this trend. It had successfully cornered a niche in the coffee bag segment – but in recent years it found growing competition was boosting the market and making it hard for FreshFoods – the brand’s owner – to keep up with demand.

“We previously had the share of the coffee bag market but we were losing it due to competition,” FreshFoods factory manager Ramon Alvarez said.  “We had no capacity to get the volume needed to match the growth of the company – we were using 25-year-old equipment, and couldn’t keep up.  “But we didn’t want to change anything about our product – we wanted to keep the same coffee bag, which uniquely has a string attached.” Alvarez said the company’s original production regimen required intensive manual labour for the packing of the coffee sachets into retail take-home packs in three different formats – eight, 18 and 28 counts.  Further to this, the shelf-ready display cartons for each size didn’t follow any commonality for sachet loading, or any dimensional relationship for packing.

So FreshFoods made the decision to partner with specialist packaging equipment suppliers Mespic, which is Italy-based, and its agent Esko Australia, to come up with a new approach.

Towards consistency

FreshFood consulted with Esko/ Mespic on a solution that would provide uniformity in the packing of the sachets into the three retail formats, starting from a flat blank as opposed to a crash-lock design.

“The original design of the carton was crash-lock, and we’ve moved to a machine-formed carton so we can get some cost savings in the materials,” Esko’s technical sales manager Paul Asciak said. “Together with Mespic, we worked with FreshFoods to come up with an efficient carton design for automation, and also provide far better, more user-friendly opening features for the retail inner cartons.

“It’s brought more efficiency in the manufacturing process and better packing automation.” Asciak said it took a long time to come up with a commonality between the three pack formats of 8s, 18s and 28s.  “The three original carton designs were uniquely different to each other, so this provided some challenges,” he said.

The coffee bag sachets on the production line

When a divider divides opinion

While FreshFoods wanted to keep the same format for the coffee bag packs, it faced a challenge in placing the divider automatically in the flap.

Originally, the design was to make the 28 similar to the 18 – just taller – but head office wanted to keep the divider. Mespic owner Fabio Garavini spoke with Esko about their options, and came up with a solution which utilised a two-axis robot to do the gluing, picking and placing in position.

Another problem was the inclined angle of the divider, which involved them having to remove the angle and modify the divider.

“One of the benefits of working with Mespic is that it has been investing in its capacity to design and make trial cartons in its factory,” Asciak said.

Alvarez said the company “didn’t know how big the coffee bag market could get”, as it was never supplying enough before – but in the last two months it has been supplying about 40 per cent more.

 

Article Source: Packaging News (PKN) July-August 2018

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