Are You Ready for the “Snack Revolution”?
Unprecedented configuration flexibility for biscuit pile packs from Bosch
By Kelly Meer, product manager, Bosch Packaging Technology
The concept of ‘three meals a day’ is fading away as modern consumers shift to snacking and on-the-go consumption. While this trend is particularly apparent among millennials, other age groups also enjoy the convenience and instant availability of various foods. According to Mintel’s Global Food and Drink Trends in 2017 report, the number of global food and drink launches with on-the-go claims increased by 54 percent in 2016 and this trend is expected to continue.
Uncertain political situations in certain areas, however, have caused economic downturn, resulting in slower growth of packaged goods consumption in these regions. Categories driven by impulse consumption, such as biscuits and chocolate, are likely to be the most impacted, with consumers expected to switch to cheaper variants. One way for consumers to cut costs is to purchase single-serve snack packages. Whether it’s a cereal bar between breakfast and lunch, a family movie-time snack or an afternoon treat, products should be made available in these formats.
Cookies and crackers remain an important snack category all over the world. With decades of experience in the industry, Bosch Packaging Technology continues to innovate and preempt technological requirements to meet evolving consumer tastes. One of the key questions asked by customers is: “How can biscuit manufacturers adjust to various formats without breaking the bank?”
Working closely with biscuit producers striving to address single-serve, small and family-sized packing trends, Bosch advanced its packaging machines to deliver unprecedented format flexibility for pile packs. There are three main areas the company focused on:
In the past, pack configuration options were limited by packaging equipment.
The number of biscuits in a stack was determined by the number of extraction magazines – or a multiple of it. Latest Bosch advancements, on the other hand, offer an outstanding format flexibility of the magazine feeder that is independent from the incoming supply. The Smart Pile Loader (SPL), for example, is able to extract a variable number of products from each magazine, allowing manufacturers to select an ideal stack count for their consumers that is independent from the number of incoming lanes (lane flexibility). As a result, producers can use less magazines, saving production space and achieving the same amount of biscuits per pack. (See chart 1.)
Rightsizing is on the rise
To further satisfy ever-changing consumer demands, biscuit producers require flexibility in the number of biscuits per pack. According to Euromonitor, a shift to smaller pack sizes for snacks represented the highest rise in packaging in recent years and is set to continue. This trend is driven by growth in the snacking industry, portion control and consumer mindfulness over sugar intake. Affordability is another contributing factor, especially in developing economies.
Coupled with frequent promotions and seasonal fluctuations, the ability to change the number of products per pack easily can positively impact the bottom line. To make rightsizing effortless, modern packaging solutions on the market enable packs with one to 28 biscuits in one to four stacks on the same system. (See chart 2.)
While manufacturing is moving towards Industry 4.0, allowing machines to ‘talk’ to each other and adjust production accordingly, old generation technologies still require manual interventions to ensure continuous production flow. One example is biscuit supply to extraction magazines. If one vibratory channel is low on product, the entire production comes to a halt or incomplete biscuit stacks are produced. Often enough employees have to manually shift supply from one lane to the other to balance the product flow.
Modern technologies, on the contrary, offer automatic lane balancing to compensate for variances in product supply upstream. For example, issues with the oven can cause some lanes to run low on product or have batches of burnt cookies. Biscuit feeders can now automatically detect empty single lanes without operator interference and ‘inform’ other magazines to extract missing biscuits to complete the pack per recipe. As a result, downtime is avoided and producers can achieve consistently high product quality without product or material waste.
Offering flexibility is not enough. If it takes too long to changeover, biscuit producers might opt for a one-line-per-style approach. Many manufacturers see changeovers as the weakest link in their production process, and are forced to stick to one pack configuration for their biscuits.
To further reduce operator errors and boost uptime, the new technology, such as Bosch’s latest Biscuit on Pile Packaging System offers reliable and robust format changes in 3D. Fast changes in pack configurations, sizes or numbers of biscuits per pack means that running promotions has never been easier.
Whether you are a biscuit producer running promotional packs, surprising your consumers with new pack styles or saving product costs to meet economic challenges, flexibility is the key. The time of the one-product-per-line approach has passed. Modern technologies offer an easy-to-use and smart technology to ensure continuous production of biscuits with future market needs at heart.
About the Author
With more than 32 years of working in various roles at Bosch Packaging Technology, Kelly Meer combines a deep understanding of the packaging world with an engineering background. His area of expertise is in the horizontal form, fill and seal (HFFS) field, which Kelly gained working in the US as well as during his work assignments in Switzerland and Thailand. In his current role as Product Manager, he is responsible for the product development of packaging solutions for Bosch Packaging Technology Inc. in New Richmond, US.