Demand for healthier confectionery isn’t something ‘new’ but has been significantly amplified due to rising concerns about health and wellness during the pandemic. In the past, the industry has tended to approach the challenge of developing ‘better-for-you’ products exclusively from an ingredients and formulation perspective. But now, we’re seeing smaller pack sizes come to the fore as a means to control calorie intake, Smagarinsky says.
“The focus, now more than ever, is on offering flexibility through innovative equipment design to give manufacturers the ability to quickly and easily pivot their production strategies to meet fast-changing market trends.
“Manufacturers are seeking packaging equipment that features a range of jaw types, for example, to accommodate various bag sizes on a single system and allow for seamless switching between standard and smaller pack sizes, with minimal downtime.”
As consumers continue to grow more health-aware, the popularity of nutraceutical gummies is likely to skyrocket over the next few years, Smagarinsky also predicts.
Tackling supply chain and transport issues
He says issues relating to supply chain have been one of the more obvious consequences of the global pandemic.
“We’ve worked hard to be able to provide an uninterrupted service of equipment and spare part deliveries, although it’s not been without its challenges.
“Considering the risks to the health and safety of our staff and customers, we’ve made the decision to postpone all non-essential travel – though we’ve remained committed to our core values of collaborative partnership and hands-on customer care through our investment in smart digital monitoring and maintenance services.”
Assuring food safety
The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of food safety. Ensuring confectionery is hygienically produced and packaged has always been a vital consideration, but with the current situation fuelling fears around food contamination more than ever before, producers have been paying special attention to equipment cleanliness and effective pack sealing.
Smagarinsky says tna Solutions has been able to address its customers’ food safety concerns, thanks to the inherently hygienic design of its confectionery processing equipment, which helps guard against the accumulation of bacteria and makes thorough washdowns quick and easy.
“Dust and sugar extraction units and stripper tube closures incorporated into the former on packaging systems also work to remove excess sugar prior to pack sealing, and assure all-important seal integrity,” he says.
On-trend optimisation and boosting ROI
The confectionery market is predominantly price led, where every penny counts, says Smagarinsky. The uncertain economic climate which has ensued the pandemic means an even greater emphasis on optimising production lines and maximising ROI.
Advanced confectionery processing lines featuring sophisticated electronic controls and smart on-line feedback - combined with a fast, flexible and fully integrated packaging solutions - are an essential asset for manufacturers looking for the best possible performance in terms of speed, reliability, quality and profitability.
Pandemic-proof maintenance and advanced aftermarket service
The rising importance of line optimisation and the need to make cost savings has also boosted the profile of preventative maintenance strategies and high-quality aftermarket services. Providers, like tna, have been harnessing the power of remote monitoring, machine learning and artificial intelligence throughout the pandemic to give manufacturers’ the 360°aftermarket support they need to keep lines running smoothly.
Continued digitisation, predictive maintenance and beyond
“In the post-COVID era the confectionery market is expected to become more price sensitive, meaning that every penny counts,” says Smagarinsky. “With this in mind, we predict the dramatic leap forward in smarter, remote-based services will leave its mark. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), will be better prepared than ever to provide smart, efficient repair services wherever and whenever they’re needed."
He says that going forward in the processing and packaging world, the focus is likely to shift even more to preventative maintenance, data gathering and equipment optimisation, using advanced techniques like digital twins and machine learning to proactively monitor and optimise lines without ever needing to halt the flow of production.