There is a lot more to it than packaging.

It has been a while since sustainability has been front and center. This year, around the world, consumers quickly shed concerns about waste, especially packaging waste, to the wayside. With unknowns, many flocked to robustly packaged goods. Frozen and shelf stable food (canned / jarred) sales accelerated quickly. Yet, the fresh market shelves were also too often empty. The bigger shift was that those fresh shelves were much more likely than in many years to be wrapped in some soft of cellophane or similar film covering. Even certain grocers and other retailers have begun to focus on wrapping more and more, especially for touch-less and cashier-less stores. Life has been good for material producers in this space in 2020.

Thinking this will remain the status quo for the long term would be unwise.

Fresh Market Packaging

Yes, people are still very likely to choose products, especially fresh market, that are wrapped. This is very likely to re-ramp this fall and winter, if COVID case fluctuations follow current trends. Consumers still crave convenience, if not more so, with so many families balancing work / school / family life. Grabbing a cob of sweet corn that is already husked, cut and ready to be grilled or boiled for dinner helps during a time crunch. Desire the ability to cook carrots or potatoes, without peeling? Sure – more processors and grocers are making this available.

The desire to eat more fresh produce, but not have to spend much time preparing it, is a mega trend that is very likely to continue.

However, conveniences and concerns about ecological impact are on a collision course. Consumers are already requesting that if foods continue to be wrapped, that the films and materials are recyclable or biodegradable. However, packers are realizing that those materials are not always compatible with decades-old machinery. For those packing manually, a dual threat of labor availability and human interaction carry headaches.

Consumers want transparency while feeling positive about the products and brand they buy from. They also may be a bit more adverse to edible products that have been manually handled on a packing line. Beyond the consumers wondering how many hands touched their foods, your operations department may not be sure how they are going to find those hands in the first place.

When you’re ready to talk about your needs and desires here, we’re ready.

Energy Consumption

Far too often, the focus on sustainability centers on retail and other packaging, or going paperless in the office. Yet, energy remains in heavy utilization. This could be due to the age of equipment or the drives / motors that run the mechanical aspects. It could be that processes have been added in other rooms, requiring transportation and logistical energy use.

Modern equipment is more efficient in both design and drives that power them. Sure, you could try to build a solar farm, or buy emissions credits, and probably will take a look at those options… You can and should also tackle the equipment and design of the line.

New, lighter materials require less energy to move, and are less prone to rusting / deterioration. Years of product design enhancement means they run more efficiently overall, and use less material during construction. Most lighting now for products and processes are now equipped with LED fixtures.

You can produce more with less, and much of that comes down to improving the tools in your arsenal.

Water Consumption

Now that processors are setting up closer to buyers, not necessarily where resources are plentiful, there is more of a need to watch water consumption. Washers require water to remove foreign material from your product, whether plain, with an additive, or with a combination of both. Blanchers must have enough water to bring your products to the right, consistent temperature. They then need to chill / cease heating quickly. Much like newer clothes washing machines, newer equipment can perform these tasks with less overall utilization.

Peelers and other processing equipment require water as part of their handling operation. Water helps keep equipment and products cool during friction-based activities. It also helps to minimize the amount of material converted to waste. No matter how you look at it, you want less water to be used. What you do use, you may want to have recycled and refreshed. For certain waste, you also need separation between that which can enter a sewage system and can not.

Back to those blanchers, and anything that needs to be heated, how is your boiler? Is it modern and efficient? Is it older than the staff member who is constantly fixing it? For lower capacity needs, are you ready for an ondemand solution? Is your maintenance staff aging out?

When you tackle a new line, don’t ignore your heating / boiling / steam needs. Much like putting in a new shower in your home, the temperature and availability isn’t going to change, unless you also tackle the water heater.

Wash Down

As a producer, you know exactly how imperative it is to process and package safe products. You want to ensure end consumers are safe. On the business side, you also want to mitigate the risk of recalls. Wash down is imperative, and can also be a time and resource intensive process.

Depending on your products, there are options to right-size your investment into washdown capable equipment. Not everyone needs IP69K; some processes and products are safe with IP55, IP65, etc. Having equipment that meets your needs is fiscally wise. You also need it to be accessible, made to be washed without having to dismantle large portions of your equipment. Furthermore, it isn’t practical to use massive amounts of water or solvents to reach certain places and/or crevices. Newer equipment is made with this in mind.

When You’re Ready

We pride ourselves on an ability to deliver efficient solutions. While that’s the mantra for much, sustainability is right up there in our product portfolio, engineering and solution design. When you are getting ready to tackle a sustainability initiative, let’s figure out the right scope for you.