USDA-Compliant VFFS Machine – ‘Grater’ For Convenience Cheese

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USDA-Compliant VFFS Machine – ‘Grater’ For Convenience Cheese

USDA-Compliant VFFS Machine – ‘Grater’ For Convenience Cheese
November 05
09:29 2018
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From Mozzarella and Parmesan to Emmental, Cheddar and Feta, grated, sliced and cubed cheese is increasingly packaged in more compact, convenience style stand-up pouches. With the UK convenience food and grocery market forecast to reach £47.1 billion by 2022[1], and the trend for food-on-the-go pouches showing no signs of slowing down, ILAPAK has launched a new ultra-hygienic version of its flagship Vegatronic vertical bag maker aimed at cheese makers.

Whereas other systems weighing and packing cheese for a variety of customers might struggle to switch between different pouch formats, the Vegatronic 6000 SD can handle the full array of films and bag styles. Among them complex EasyPack, Doy, Quattro or FlexCan pouches, conventional block bottom and pillow packs, plus all the different pack reseal options, from zippers to Velcro and peelable labels.

With the UK cheese market worth an estimated £2.8 billion a year[2], Tony McDonald, Director of Sales and Marketing at ILAPAK puts the trend towards stand-up cheese pouches into context: “In the last few years we have observed a real shift towards convenience in the global and UK cheese sector. In part this is driven by time-poor consumers, but additionally retailers, particularly convenience shops, are having to adjust their allocation of space to products to order to accommodate wider ranges. Pouches can help to optimise fixture space and improve the visual appeal of retail shelves.”

Nevertheless, most cheese manufacturers still need the facility to pack cheese in pillow packs, with more and more SKUs added as consumption trends evolve. “Packing cheese is very much a marginal business and being able to increase productivity and switch between formats seamlessly, particularly if supplying own branded cheese products to multiple retailers, is central to Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE),” adds Tony.

The Vegatronic 6000 SD can run off the full range of vertical bag styles with fast changeover. The modular machine uses a continuous film motion to form a bag from a single reel of wrapping material, unwound at a constant speed while filling and sealing the bag at the same time.

Thanks to its innovative box motion jaws that travel with the film, a longer seal time and higher sealing pressure can be achieved, resulting in lower leak rates, fewer pack rejects and more attractive finishes.

“One of the challenges of packing cheese vertically into pouches, particular grated cheese, has long been ensuring product is kept clear of the sealing jaw to achieve a reliable gas tight seal. Failure to do this means seal integrity is compromised which leads to higher waste volumes,” adds Tony.

Eliminating hygiene sticking point

For cheeses that don’t contain potato starch, stickiness can be a common issue resulting in significant machine downtime to remove build up and blockages. To achieve a clean flow of product all the way to the bagging jaws and maximise throughput, ILAPAK advises installing a multi-head weigher designed specifically for the cheese industry. The Weightronic WA 16/10 features low-adhesion Teflon coating to tackle this very issue.

Knowing how conscious the market is about safe food packaging, the Vegatronic 6000 SD USDA-compliant bagger has been designed to meet stringent sanitation standard operating procedures. In addition to incorporating a special Teflon coated finish on all the machine’s components, there no cavities where sticky cheese, such as grated Parmesan, can accumulate, reducing the risk of cross contamination between product changeovers.

Easier cleaning is facilitated by the machine’s modular design, enabling individual sections to be accessed by manufacturing operatives safely and swiftly. Maintenance is further assisted by an innovative system that allows fast removal of the forming tube, while the machine’s open frame design offers full access to all areas of the film reel path.

All film and product contact parts have ‘extreme’ finishing, and guarding is constructed from transparent material that is highly resistant to harsh cleaning detergents. By isolating the electrical cabinet from the main frame of the system, ILAPAK has also removed the high risk item from potential damage during high pressured washdowns.

Tony ends: “Having installed over 1500 systems for the cheese industry, ILAPAK has unrivalled global experience in this sector. This latest development to our vertical form fill and seal range, the Vegatronic 6000 SD, is testament to the importance of future proofing investments in automated bagging kit by being able to switch seamlessly between all the prevalent cheese film and pouch formats as packaging trends and consumer buying habits evolve.”

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