Catering in the high mountain ranges

Compass packs meals for canteens at mines in the Chilean Andes with chamber machines from MULTIVAC.

The Compass Group was actually looking for a new pouch pack that would allow cooked meals to be transported and then reheated, without the seal seams coming open.

However MULTIVAC not only fulfilled these requirements, but also enabled cost savings to be made: the new film pouches are made of a robust PA/PE laminate and can be stacked on pallets more tightly than before. This reduces the number of transport containers required and therefore also the transport costs.

The Compass Group, which was founded in 1914, is an international provider of property management and catering services. The company has more than 500,000 employees in 50 countries and an annual turnover of around 22 billion US dollars. As one of the largest catering groups in the world, Compass manufactures and packs some four billion meals per year in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia and these meals are delivered worldwide - even to the most remote corners on earth. A Compass subsidiary in Chile for example supplies healthy meals to the employees at an ore mine, which is located more than 4,000 metres above sea level in the Andes.


Pouch packs for varying portion sizes


“We cook a wide range of different meals for the mine workers, such as meat and vegetables, noodles and rice, soups and sauces. We use film pouches for packing these, since we can process all the orders with this method without having to convert the packaging machine every time. It is sufficient with pouch packing just to have the different pouch sizes to hand”, says Luisa Lobos, Category Manager at Compass, explaining the process used. The catering group does not deliver the meals in a warm state to the remote areas. The food for the mining staff for example was allowed to cool off after cooking, because the transportation pouches that had been used previously were not heat-resistant. The canteen cooks then had to unpack the food again before it could be reheated. “We wanted to accelerate and simplify this process. This meant that transportation packs were required, in which one could reheat the food”.Since MULTIVAC is well-known in the food sector as a reliable partner with high-quality and individual solutions, the project managers at the subsidiary in Santiago de Chile requested information fromMULTIVAC about the possibilities of filling the food hot into film pouches. This was required not just for transportation but also for later reheating. The most important requirement of the catering group was that all the pouches had to be permanently sealed. “Our experience had shown that the seal seams are the weak point of pouch packs. We repeatedly had complaints about losses, because the seams were not hundred percent sealed, or they had opened during transport”, says Luisa Lobos, explaining the problems with the previous solution.

Extreme conditions for seal seams


Nelson Morales, Product Manager for films and consumable materials at MULTIVAC Chile, advised the customer on the selection of suitable packaging material, and summarizes the criteria as follows: “Because the film pouches at Compass are exposed to three different temperature ranges and enormous variations in altitude, the seal seams must remain sealed at temperatures between 0 and 100 °C and must be able to withstand pressure differences between 600 and 1000 mbar”. When the pouches are filled with the hot meals, they are exposed briefly to very great heat between 90 and 100 °C. They are transported and stored at 0 to 5 °C, and before being served they must withstand a temperature of 80 °C for two hours. “The reheating in particular posed a trial of strength in the truest sense of the word for the seal seams - the film pouches kept on bursting”, reports Luisa Lobos on the test runs at MULTIVAC, which took place in the search for a suitable material. Eventually one film proved to be durable enough and this had a composition of polyethylene on the inner side and polyamide on the outer side. “We introduced intensive quality control at the same time as the new film, so that we could quickly eliminate any weak points that might arise, and we now have the ideal solution thanks to the outstanding support of MULTIVAC”, says Luisa Lobos with satisfaction.

Since the middle of 2013 Compass has been filling and packing around 80,000 of these durable film pouches per month on a MULTIVAC C 500 double chamber machine and on a compact C 200. Both models are equipped with automatic, progressive ventilation, allowing them to pack either soft, liquid or delicate food products gently and reliably. Since the sealing temperature on the two chamber machines can be set very precisely, users can rely on the high quality of the double-seam sever sealing.


More robust, longer shelf life, more compact


Having made the decision for one tabletop machine and one double chamber machine, Compass has the right machine for every order volume. The compact C 200 with its chamber height of 150 mm is suitable for smaller quantities, while the C 500 impresses with its efficiency: while a film pouch is being loaded in the one chamber, the packaging procedure is running in the second chamber. Thanks to sealing bars that can be quickly changed and filling plates for adapting the pouch to the sealing height, different products can be packed in various pouch sizes without lengthy conversion of the machine.

“The introduction of a new packaging solution has paid off for Compass in every respect”, says Luisa
Lobos in summary. She cites the most important improvement as the durable packs, thanks to which losses due to burst seal seams are a thing of the past. The fact that the robust film pouches can even be filled with hot meals gives Compass two other benefits: firstly, a lot of time is saved by not having the cooling phase, and secondly the shelf life of the packed food has been increased to five days due to hot packing. But that is not enough for Luisa Lobos: “The MULTIVAC service technicians helped us to exploit in full the potential of our new packaging solution: thanks to our new space-saving method of packaging, we can fit more pallets than previously into a container, so that we also save money on transport. We can pass on this price benefit to our customers and therefore continue to retain our competitiveness”.


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