Freshly sliced and appetizingly packaged

This is how Atria’s sliced sausage is presented. Three new R 535 thermoforming packaging machines at Finland’s leading manufacturer of meat products ensure optimum packaging results are achieved and that genuine competitive advantage is gained.

Atria is one of the leading food groups in the Nordic countries, Baltic states and Russia. The start of the company goes back to 1903. And the future looks bright, since the Group is well set up and continues to experience growth. Its customers include food retailers, the catering sector and the food industry. A net turnover of more than 1.4 billion euros was achieved in the financial year 2014 with 4,715 employees in the four business areas of Atria Finland, Atria Scandinavia, Atria Russia and Atria Baltic.

Atria’s business philosophy naturally includes much thought about its ongoing competitiveness. “We want to continue maintaining our top position in the market with peak economic performances, a high level of efficiency and systematic methods of working,” explains Markku Hirvijärvi, Senior Vice President for Quality, Research & Development and Production at Atria. This also means the company has to clearly set itself apart from other suppliers in the market with its quality products in modern and attractive packs. This is because it is primarily the visual appearance that counts for consumers, when they look at the huge range of products on the chill shelf - they prefer appetizingly packaged products, which suggest freshness and food hygiene.

But the path to the perfect result is sometimes long. “Around ten years ago we launched a new generation of sliced meat packs onto the market,” recalls Markku Hirvijärvi. “Competitors however copied our solution over time, and soon, all packs in the market looked more or less the same. We quite simply lost our unique feature.”

The requirements of a new pack were therefore clearly defined: it had to differentiate itself distinctly from previous solutions by means of its design. Another important aspect was the handling - the pack had to be easy to open and capable of being reclosed.

MULTIVAC was on board from the start thanks to its many years of business connections with the customer and its high level of technological know-how. On the basis of its previous cooperation with the customer, only the experienced packaging specialist was trusted with the task of successfully mastering a project with these demands. The optimum solution was actually implemented in February 2014 after a protracted but constructive process with all those involved, namely customers, packaging material suppliers, MULTIVAC and of course Atria itself. The meat producer’s packaging team also played an important role: the team not only had the idea for the new pack but also crucially supported the development of the final packaging solution.

Since then a total of three R 535 thermoforming packaging machines have mastered the packaging procedure. They offer the highest level of efficiency thanks to the optimised consumption of packaging material and energy. Due to the most extensive range of equipment options available on the market, the machines enable complex pack shapes to be produced at high output.

The new packs set themselves apart from those of the competitors thanks to their design, colour and opening aids, while meeting the highest requirements in terms of freshness, product safety and shelf life. They have a colour contrasting peel corner, which immediately leaps into view and makes it easier to open the pack. Individual portions can be conveniently removed and the pack then closed again easily. This enables the remaining sliced product to be protected. The packs are provided with a hanger hole for optimum presentation at the point of sale.

The sliced product is arranged in layers in a MAP pack. This makes it easier for the consumer to remove the individual slices from the rigid thermoformed pack. The evacuation and gas flushing process is matched to the specific product requirements, so the quality, visual appearance, moisture content and taste are retained perfectly in the pack, and the slices do not stick together or slide about.

Each of the three packaging lines is equipped with a cross web labeller for the upper web and one for the lower web. The MR625 OP labels directly onto the upper web of the packs after sealing, while the
MR635 UP applies labels to the lower web. Both are ideally suited to product labels that are frequently changing, and they have a longitudinal propulsion unit for multi-row formats. The labels are applied in high-speed mode to the pack at right angles to the film running direction.

The high-output packaging lines and the new packs are considered by Atria to be an “excellent solution”. Markku Hirvijärvi gets straight to the point: “MULTIVAC has absolutely fulfilled our highest expectations with regard to quality, innovation, capacity and output capability. All the specifications and requirements were successfully met from a technological point of view - and our customers are also very satisfied.” Seen from a strategic standpoint, the project is also developing in a very promising direction, since Atria’s innovative pack for sliced product has received awards in both Scandinavian and international packaging competitions. And last but not least, the company’s market share has grown still further since the launch of the product.


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