Outlaw Snax Sees Untapped Potential in Tortilla Chips

Outlaw Snax uses its fleet of Matrix Elete vertical form fill seal machines to fill bag sizes between 2 and 28 ounces. Image courtesy of Matrix Packaging Machinery.

Vertical Form, Fill & Seal Equipment Simplifies Operations

By Christine Duncan, Marketing Manager, Flexibles and Trays for Matrix and Ossid, both ProMach brands

Picking up a bag of tortilla chips from the grocery store rarely inspires much excitement. Most of the time, these relatively tasteless snacks are used as a vessel to scoop up more exciting flavors, like dips, salsas, and guacamoles. Outlaw Snax, an Ocala, Fla. based up-and-coming snack foods manufacturer, saw the untapped potential of the tortilla chip, and decided to turn the afterthought of the snack aisle into a dangerously delicious, stand-alone flavor phenomenon.

Not only is each chip loaded with flavor, but each comes with its own character for snacking with a story. For example, Kid Dynamo is the intergalactic bandit behind the spicy ranch flavor who joins forces with the Sweet Heat Sisters of honey sriracha to bring fiery flavor to the furthest reaches of the universe.

Early reception to their snacks has been overwhelmingly positive, with new flavors and characters currently in development. In addition to the new products, Outlaw Snax is expanding into new spaces as well, such as Sam’s Club, Dollar Tree, Roses, Roses Express and other retail outlets. With demand continuing to grow, the packaging lines in the Ocala facility that prepare chips for sale need to be efficient and easy to use with little wasted product or film.

Machine fill: The jaws of the Matrix Elete cut and seal a bag of chips at a rate of up to 130 bags per minute. Image courtesy of Matrix Packaging Machinery.

Bags of chips travel up a conveyor onto a turntable, where they are hand packed into cases. Image courtesy of Matrix Packaging Machinery.

A chip on their shoulder

Unfortunately, the machines that were originally used to fill the bags with chips left much to be desired. A combination of machines from different suppliers all performed differently, which led employees to require extended training to learn the nuances of each machine. These variations led to inefficient changeovers and high film waste – all of which negatively impacted the bottom line.

Savory solutions

Bags of freshly filled tortilla chips await to be packaged. Image courtesy of Matrix Packaging Machinery.

After reviewing several options, Outlaw Snax chose to standardize their vertical form seal machinery (VFFS), which offers reliable, repeatable flexible packaging for a variety of solid and liquid food products. These machines work by forming bags or flexible pouches from flat, rollstock packaging material. VFFS machines work in conjunction with a variety of fillers, such as augers, cup fillers and scales to seamlessly form the pouch and fill it at the same time. Popular items packaged from vertical form fill seal machines include baking mixes, coffee, candy, spices, dried meats, produce, IQF products, and in the case of Outlaw Snax – tasty tortilla chips.

The first of these new machines was installed in January of 2019. Since the initial installation, four more machines have been added to production, and more are expected to be placed into action soon. These new machines helped streamline and shorten the changeover process, while also simplifying training and reducing bag waste.

The new machines are a high performance, totally configurable solution for small and large bags. They come with automatic film tracking, a stainless steel frame, optional printer, labeler, and multiple valve applications. The vertical form fill seal machines can produce several different bag sizes, such as pillow, gusset, quad, and flat bottom with a variety of films, including recyclable, at filling rates up to 100 bags per minute.

After Outlaw Snax seasons its chips, they travel up a bucket conveyor and are routed to one of four Yamato combination scales, where product is weighed based on the bag size being run. Both the scales and bagging machines are linked together, giving the operator full control of the line from the VFFS’ HMI touchscreens. After the weighed chips flow down and are packaged, they travel up a short conveyor to a rotating table and are placed into boxes in preparation for shipping.

One of the best benefits the fleet of new VFFS machines has brought to Outlaw Snax is simplicity in both changeovers and operation. The changeover process now is very simple; it’s all programmed right into the machine. An operator simply selects the changeover program, puts the film on and within a few minutes they’re making a new bag.

Understanding your application

The Matrix Elete vertical form fill seal machine forms the film, seals the ends and prepares it to be filled with tortilla chips. Image courtesy of Matrix Packaging Machinery.

To best optimize any packaging line first requires a thorough understanding of all the components and variables involved. The key to a successful packaging line that meets your production and sales goals is to know what’s happening before product arrives to the bagger, as well as its destination after it has been packaged.

To help ensure the bagger being built meets your production goals, the types of questions an OEM supplier will ask include:

  • What is the product being filled?
  • What type of film will be used?
  • What is the density?
  • What are the flow characteristics?
  • How is the product being fed into the bagger?
  • What is eth speed of every piece of equipment behind and ahead of the bagger?
  • What are the bag sizes?
  • What are the bag styles?
  • What is the desired fill rate per minute?
  • What is the target product weight?

Knowing this information upfront helps determine the scope of the project. Also, the reason to have answers to these questions in the early stages is that each one influences the other; if one of the answers to a question is unknown, it can sometimes dramatically change the scope of the project.

Since no two applications are exactly alike, a reputable OEM supplier we want to learn as much as possible about the product being filled; the environment of the facility; desired production goals; what’s occurring uptream of the application, i.e., how is the product getting to the VFFS machine, and where is the bag going after it is filled. Answering these questions up front will help ensure the project meets or exceeds your expectations.

Outlaw Snax now has six new VFFS machines operating 24-hours a day, five days a week, producing bag sizes between 2 and 28 ounces. To best replicate the success that Outlaw Snax is experiencing, select an OEM partner who understands packaging applications, and who will be there for you long after the installation is completed. This will help you get the most from your bagger, and packaging line.

About the Author

Christine Duncan is the Marketing Manager, Flexibles and Trays, for Matrix and Ossid, both ProMach brands. She can be reached at Christine.duncan@promachbuilt.com. Learn more about Matrix Packaging Machinery at www.matrixpm.com.

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