Maintaining freshness with MAP packs
Japanese consumers prefer fresh, appetising and high-quality food products, which are marketed in attractive packs. The products are generally sold in many different variations and produced in small batch sizes. This means a number of challenges have to be overcome at production sites, such as limited production areas and sudden reductions in the economically active population.
While searching for a suitable packaging solution, which could be used at its various production sites, Alty Foods became aware of MULTIVAC and also MAP technology, which was still not widespread in Japan. This was the start of successful cooperation between the two companies.
Alty Foods, which is a food processing company with around 1,600 employees, was founded in 1975 in Osaka. The company mainly processes meat, fish, and seafood – and the high-quality products are attractively packaged for supply to retail customers. These include the six subsidiaries of Daiei, one of the country’s leading supermarket chains. The company motto is “Maintaining freshness through packaging technology that is gentle on the product”.
Some significant problems in the overall packaging procedure were the crucial factor in the search by Alty Foods for a new packaging solution. At that time, most products were packed mainly under normal atmosphere in stretch film packs without modified atmosphere, and this led to significant food waste in the logistics chain. In addition to this, the packaging procedure had a low level of efficiency.
Clearly defined project objectives
The most important objectives on the agenda for the new packaging solution were maintaining freshness and colour, as well as achieving extended shelf life for the products. The solution also had to be flexible enough to be capable of packing a wide range of products in small batch sizes. In addition to this, the company also wished to have standardised and reliable process sequences, which could be operated with fewer staff.
In order to meet these requirements, MULTIVAC put forward the T 300 traysealer for producing MAP packs. Kenji Matoba, who managed the project, describes the project sequence as follows. “Following in-depth discussions with the customer, we organised an intensive workshop for Alty Foods in conjunction with a tray manufacturer and a supplier of inert gases. We then carried out extensive spoilage tests on the packaged food to assess its shelf life. The complex procedure enabled us to evaluate the effectiveness of the different processes and find the best solution for the challenging requirements at Alty Foods.”
The company motto: “Maintaining freshness through packaging technology that is gentle on the product”.
A total of 19 T 300 traysealers are now in use at Alty Foods in four different locations, seven machines at Ibaraki, eight at Kawasaki, two at Funabashi, and two at Fukuoka. With its space-
saving design, this high-performance traysealer from MULTIVAC enables small to medium-sized batches of trays to be packed in very limited spaces. It has energy-efficient drive systems and can be washed down. If higher throughput is required, this compact model can also be individually designed as multi-track and combined with discharge systems. At Alty Foods, the packs are aligned at the machine outfeed after sealing and labelling, so the primary packs can be loaded more quickly into the secondary packaging boxes. Die changes can also be performed quickly and easily by trained staff. Thanks to its IPC06 machine control with touchscreen, operating the traysealer is particularly user-friendly.
The appetising products are now packed in pre-made trays from ChuoKagaku Co. Ltd under a modified atmosphere, which is perfectly tailored to the particular food product. In conjunction with Air Liquide, work was carried out from the start on defining the correct gas mixture for the different products, such as various seafoods, so the desired shelf life, colour, and freshness could be achieved. Thanks to extensive tests, which were continued even after installation of the machines, this requirement was satisfactorily met within a short period of time.
When viewed overall, the challenging project objectives have been fulfilled completely. Alty Foods has committed itself to the environmentally responsible handling of resources, and it also values not only the standardised process sequences but also the optimisation of its dispatch and delivery procedures. The extended product shelf life enables the number of single deliveries to be reduced, which means a reduction in costs and pressure on the environment.
The compact T 300 traysealer can be designed as multi-track
A converging system creates a single-track product flow to downstream processing
Thanks to its IPC 06 control, the T 300 can be operated intuitively
Additional information can be called up from a QR code via app
Quality and safety for the consumer
The delicate food products are securely protected in their rigid packs throughout the entire process chain. This means the shape, colour, moisture, consistency, and freshness of the product are maintained. The content of the pack can be readily recognized by the consumer through the highly transparent upper web.
A QR code on each MAP pack also enables additional information about Alty Foods, MULTIVAC and MAP technology, which is still not widespread in Japan, to be conveniently called up via smartphone. The code is located with the company logo on a separate label on the upper web. A further label carries the one-dimensional retail code, as well as specific product information such as product designation, price, and weight.
This is intended to raise consumers’ awareness of MAP packs to the same level as in Europe and the USA. This has also raised the expectation at Alty Foods, that the company’s products will establish themselves positively in the perception of consumers, and that they will create recognition value as well as differentiating themselves in future from competitors’ products at the point of sale. This will be particularly important if other food producers in the market start to pack their products in MAP, and if the choice of similar products therefore becomes greater at supermarkets and other retailers. “Thanks to this innovative pack and its special labelling, Alty Foods has established a very useful instrument for brand loyalty and customer retention. The products are recognized by their labels and categorized as being trustworthy products. Consumers can rely at all times on the quality and safety of the products - one aspect, which can be a decisive factor in competition,” says Kenji Matoba.
The innovative type of packaging has already been well received by retailers and consumers. This can be seen in the significant rise in sales – a trend, which will undoubtedly continue.