Ilapak said it developed the Delta VacMap flow-wrapper in a joint development programme forUK-based Sonora Foods, which produces around six million tortillas a week at its Daventry and Milton Keynes factories.Sonora's tortillas sell in the UK under the Discovery brand.
"Consumers' demand for better pack presentation prompted the move to develop a completely new type of packaging machine, capable of producing a pack with the appearance of a traditional flow-wrap and the shelf-life of a thermo-formedpack," Ilapak stated this week in releasing the machine to the wider market.
The result of the collaboration is a new machine, which for the first time enables the company to produce high quality flow-wrapped packs with a six monthshelf-life, Ilapak stated.
The horizontal, form, fill and seal machine combines vacuum and modified atmosphere packaging in a single machine.An in-line vacuum system allows the Delta VacMap to extract trapped pockets of oxygen found inside and between the products themselves, to keep the contents fresh forlonger, Ilapak stated.
"Using Ilapak's VacMap flow-wrapper, Sonora can now produce these attractive, new long-life packs at high speeds, efficiently and at a significantly lower cost than using a thermo-formingmachine," Ilapak stated.
Sales of Sonora's Discovery tortilla range have grown by between 10 per cent to 12 per cent over the last seven years, drivingthe company to make a £7m (€10.4m) investment in expanding the company's factory in Daventryand the construction of another factory, recently opened in Milton Keynes.
Sonora had been using Ilapak's Delta modified atmosphere (MAP) packaging machines for severalyears. The company contacted Ilapak to make a bettter machine. The result was the VacMap, which Ilapaksays offers all the cost and efficiency benefits of flow-wrapping. The benefits includes fast product size changes, ease of use and dramatically reduced production costs due to reduced material and labour costs and fully automatic feeding.
VacMap has given the company the flexibility to produce conventional flow-wrapped packs, modifiedatmosphere packaging (MAP) and packs with a six month shelf life, all on the same machine.
Sonora's packaging line is currently running at 48 packs a minute and labour costs have been reduceddue to VacMap's fully automated feeding system. Previously tortillas had to be fed into the thermo-former by hand, requiring two or three operators per line.
Film costs have also been reduced significantly as the VacMap uses around half the material of athermo-former, Ilapak claimed.
Product and size changeovers take around half an hour - compared to four hours on a thermo-forming machine.
Brian Ridgway, managing director of Sonora Foods said the company contacted Ilapak after findingthere was no packaging machine on the market capable of meeting its requirements.
"We're delighted with the result - the packs look excellent and because they are print-registered we can achieve a much higher quality presentation for maximum shelfimpact," Ilapak quotes him as stating. "Customers perceive the contents of a flow-wrapped pack to be fresher than a thermo-formed pack, giving greater customer appeal and an important marketing advantage."