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Automating confectionery packaging: Boosting efficiency and reducing contamination

#Automating confectionery packaging: Boosting efficiency and reducing contamination

07 Feb 2024 — Confectionery packaging is a dynamic landscape, continually evolving to meet consumer demands for convenience, sustainability and product integrity. As the industry surges forward, leading machinery suppliers say packaging solutions must address challenges like varying shapes, sizes and fragility of products while embracing shelf appeal.

According to Simon Hill, group solutions specialist of Packaging at TNA Solutions, addressing these challenges requires innovative approaches. He emphasizes the need for efficient and damage-free packaging, especially for products like gummy confectionery.

“Gummy confectionery products often have characteristics that pose challenges in high-speed, low-waste weighing and packaging. Oiled gummies, for example, are sticky and difficult to weigh but can be packaged fast since there is no sugar drop-off. Conversely, sugared and starch-coated gummies are easy to weigh, but their sugar coating can drop off, risking sugar contamination of the end-seal of the bags.”

“Our unique rotary jaws with stripper tube closers are designed to prevent product and sugar from contaminating the seals — one of the industry’s hardest challenges,” he tells Packaging Insights.

In light of changing market trends and consumer preferences, packaging suppliers are rethinking their approach to ensure that their confectionery packaging solutions are adaptable to future innovations and regulatory requirements, providing a long-term and future-proof investment for confectionery manufacturers.man eating chocolateAccording to TNA Solutions, brands must adapt to changing health and wellness consumer trends.

Smaller, flatter bags
Recent data from Innova Market Insights highlights the steady growth of confectionery launches globally, particularly in the chocolate blocks segment.

Notably, plastic material led the launches, but there seems to be a high growth in bio-based material use (+114%). “Flat pouch” was the most used packaging type, and an increase in “open bag” launches was observed.

Additionally, according to an analysis of the market data, recyclable claims lead to tracked confectionery packaging, but the plastic-free environmental packaging claim has the fastest growth.

“Manufacturers face increasing regulatory pressure to reformulate products in line with new health standards aimed at reducing high fat, sugar, or salt content. Such evolving regulations compel confectionery makers to alter their product formulations to align with healthier consumer benchmarks,” says Hill.

“Another significant trend we see across the confectionery sector is the shift toward smaller, single-serve bags, prompted by the high caloric content of standard 75 g bags. As health and wellness influence consumer choices, brands must adapt to provide options catering to this trend.”

Adapt and appeal
Gerhard Schubert recently participated in the ProSweets trade fair in Cologne, Germany. The company states that it is aware of the changes faced by the confectionery sector, such as rising costs for raw materials and energy, and fierce competition. Additionally, it shares that consumers’ growing health and environmental awareness creates new demands, while implementation of legal requirements is another challenge.A Schubert bar packer closes two cartons filled with bars on a conveyor belt.A Schubert bar packer closes two cartons filled with bars on a conveyor belt.

“Confectionery manufacturers not only need to adapt to new types of products and packaging, they also have to establish highly efficient, adaptable packaging processes,” says Schubert.

“Remaining agile and adaptable is essential for our customers to respond to shifting consumer attitudes. Therefore, our equipment is designed for flexible production with high output. It can be easily modified through its simple modular design to meet future demands.”

According to Cama Group, the market for packaging systems for chocolate and confectionery is “heavily dependent on brand and packaging appeal, both of which are coupled to price points.”

“Continual innovation in product and packaging formats (for mass production and small batch), more dramatic packaging and product reveals, and the growing use of sustainable materials and packaging leads to regular variations in packaging styles and formats.”

Reducing material waste
Sustainability is another crucial aspect shaping confectionery packaging with material innovation and machinery automation emerging as viable solutions.

“The tna robag 3e vertical form fill and seal machine is designed for high-speed, reliable packaging into pillow bags, delivering high performance and quality standards. It is capable of producing a wide variety of products at speeds of up to 250 bags per minute and focuses on efficiency,” Hill details.

“Although it can accommodate other bag styles, our emphasis remains on pillow bags due to their material efficiency and production speed. There is a trend toward reduced demand for stand-up bags or pouches, which require more packaging material and have slower production rates.”

TNA Solutions prioritizes film reduction technology for environmental gains, reducing material usage while maintaining packaging integrity. Hill elaborates: “Our single-serration jaws, for example, enable us to use recyclable but non-biodegradable biaxially oriented polypropylene and reduce the amount required by 5 mm per seal.” person eating a chocolate from a plastic wrapprAccording to Cama Group, the market for packaging systems for chocolate and confectionery is “heavily dependent on brand and packaging appeal, both of which are coupled to price points.”

Meanwhile, answering the demand for sustainable packaging solutions, Schubert highlights its TLM Comfort Feeder that transforms blank feeding, enhancing efficiency while reducing material waste. Additionally, Schubert’s Dotlock technology offers glue-free cardboard bonding. The cardboard-monofilm hybrid solution minimizes plastic usage.

“With so many different and frequently changing products, flexibility is the key to success in confectionery packaging,” says Schubert.

Modular solutions for flexibility
Schubert’s range of modular machinery, including pick-and-place robots and flow-wrapping units, ensures flexibility without compromising efficiency. The company’s technology can adapt seamlessly to diverse product portfolios, catering to the ever-changing demands of the confectionery industry.

The integration of advanced optical systems underscores Schubert’s commitment to quality control. Vision systems and AI technology ensure precision and reliability throughout the packaging, vital for maintaining product integrity and meeting regulatory requirements.

Similarly, Cama Group’s chocolate packaging machines are modular and integrate easily, adapting to various packaging styles, formats, flavors and product counts. “Cama Group designs and builds efficient and flexible digital-ready chocolate and confectionery packaging solutions,” writes the supplier.

“[The machines] deliver hygiene, cleanliness, quality consistency and optimized throughput, in combination with rapid changeovers and minimized downtime. Cama Group’s packaging machines for chocolate and bakery can easily adapt to continual packaging innovation in confectionery product packaging formats and multi-flavor arrays, as well as handling sustainable packaging, recyclable packaging and reusable packaging.”

By Radhika Sikaria

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