The New Year is bringing new changes to cheese packaging.
As the sector continues to see dramatic shifts in market trends brought on by new consumer buying behavior, producers are quickly aligning themselves with essential fresh drivers that are beginning to take shape.
Production automation, improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and cost savings continue to top almost every list. However, in 2023 there is something else – an added layer of demand for global stewardship that looks towards cheese packaging’s future with a laser focus.
Now more than ever, consumers are calling for environmental safeguards and reward those suppliers overwhelmingly with faithful spend. In turn, producers are adopting cheese packaging practices that have already gained significant ground in Europe, such as vacuum skin packaging (VSP), and eying full integration of renewed, sustainable materials into their processes as a main goal for the coming year.
Finding a Balance
Yet, in setting your savings and sustainability goals, as a cheese packagers, both you and your partner original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that supplies your equipment must identify and reconcile with significant challenges presented by such a transition.
For some, “sustainability” still seems like a ubiquitous industry buzzword with no clear indication or roadmap on how to achieve it. Many customers clamour for more “sustainable” products and packaging but you, as a producer, do not know how to achieve the goal – deflating the practicality of the effort and diminishing its importance.
To find this all-important balance, it now falls to you to delve deeper into the customer quest for sustainability and place sustainable practices on the scales alongside production data and material costs. Not doing so in the face of such overwhelming demand could mean falling behind and losing essential, eco-conscious customer spend to more innovative brands who have decided to prioritize a more modern green balance.
Taking a Step Towards Tomorrow’s Cheese Packaging
Much of today’s cheese packaging is completed on Hayssen industrial packaging machinery. However, while offering low costs and high production speeds, the system’s capabilities are limited in terms of features green customers are clamoring for, namely more sustainable packaging alternatives, production processes, and cutting-edge innovation.
As a forward-thinking cheese producer, your first step is to partner with OEMs developing specific new products and reorganize and redirect your brand goals and initiatives toward new ends. Your new partnerships must work to benefit collective bottom lines through improved production savings and efficiency, but must also incorporate reduction across key metrics and completely transform packaging formats to satisfy present consumer needs:
- Recycle Plastics: Utilize mono-material solutions using Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) content, closing the production loop and facilitating circular markets
- Reduce Plastics: Integrate packaging systems designed to avoid oversized packaging and eliminate scrap
- Source Renewable Materials: Replace plastic with paper, biobased, and compostable solutions
- Decrease Carbon Footprint: Minimize packaging’s CO2 impact by making shipments of materials less dense and require fewer shipping vehicles
NEW CHEESE PACKAGING TECHNOLOGY OVER A NEW HORIZON
As consumers demand more and packagers perfect their strategies, innovative OEMs are taking point to differentiate themselves from the status quo. They’re developing fresh technologies for the cheese packaging sector and addressing key customer demands that continue to shape the modern marketplace – minimizing plastics and transitioning to biobased materials, such as paper, fiber-based materials, pressed board, and others.
Many technologies are starting to standing tall among the others, proving their production and savings capabilities while meeting the sustainability demands of the modern consumer for 2023 and beyond:
A growing number of leading global cheese producers are turning to advanced thermoforming to create trays with preformed characteristics, such as thicker material gauges and turned down edges as opposed to traditional plastic packaging. By opting for these preformed trays, you’re able to reap the benefits of utilizing roll stock film, including significant material cost savings and denser shipments. With more reels of material per truck load vs. stacked trays on a pallet, denser shipment help reduce carbon footprint and create new, varied annual cost material benefits and savings.
Sustainable Vacuum Skin Packaging (VSP)
With a fundamental shift towards thermoforming to highly reduce plastic packaging, cheese producers are also integrating VSP technology that creates ideal sealing characteristics that mirror traditional skin packaging, yet significantly reduces raw materials. As an added bonus to heighted eco-aware design, sustainable skin packaging poses no risk for deformations or defects giving it front-runner status in plastic reduction efforts.
For example, a Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) material for skin packaging will absorb more heat due to sensitivity and often deform. Today’s sustainable vacuum skin packaging technology cools the mechanical tooling and the PET tray itself to facilitate a much thinner gauge film (300 microns vs. 500 microns) during the skin packaging process.
- Up to 50% reduction in tray thickness and weight
- Decreased production costs
- Reduced carbon emissions from less dense shipments
- Reduced shipping and transport costs
- Streamlined compatibility with sustainable applications
REDUCING PLASTIC WASTE
Despite all the efforts to reduce plastics in cheese packaging, plastic still plays an integral role across your various packaging formats and applications. Therefore, in preparing for tomorrow’s cheese markets, you must continuously strive to find a balance when using necessary plastics in production. This balance is accomplished by integrating OEM technology which minimizes plastic waste and maximizes packaging material efficiencies and resources to satisfy demands on production and consumer fronts.
Sustainable Tray Sealing for Plastic Reduction
Contemporary tray sealing technology continues to evolve to offer ideal plastic reduction in the packaging formation process and resulting minimized waste. Combined with vacuum skin packaging for cheese, sustainable tray sealing can precut tray lidding film to achieve 100% top film utilization and zero film waste. This process reduces top web film waste by 40% overall vs. traditional skin pack machines, creating a more sustainable packaging process when utilizing requisite plastics.
Yet, sustainable tray sealing’s benefits don’t end with environmental impact. Integrating tray sealing has the power to also increase your cheese production by up to 35% vs. traditional plastic cheese packaging, while keeping shape consistency and packaging appeal. This increased productivity, combined with a faster, more efficient step for vacuum skin packaging, can quickly make sustainable tray sealing an industry staple if you identify among eco-conscious packagers.
Tray Sealing, Lidding & Zero Percent Scrap
Incorporating tray sealing applications into sustainable cheese packaging goes deeper than surface level, allowing for cutting-edge innovations to nearly eliminate plastic waste at every level. Some producers are adopting applications to even create ZERO PERCENT lidding film scrap when shuttled onto preformed trays. These new innovations are reminiscent of a traditional die-cut lidding, but with a more modern eco-conscious upgrade. Film is precut from roll stock to exact measurements, resulting in precise plastic utilization and optimized waste management.
Working in tandem with tray forming packaging systems, these contemporary tray sealing applications have the capabilities to produce only 2% scrap overall when creating lidding films and trays from roll stock. This minimal waste results from trays being cut BEFORE they are formed, vs. a standard in-line form fill and seal – where you would need the additional materials (15-20% scrap) for the conveyance system to bring it through the packaging system.
RENEWABLE CHEESE PACKAGING
As consumers continue to reassess their purchasing habits across all food sectors, reducing plastic and plastic waste is your superior first step, but not the end of your sustainability efforts. Your called to look further, aligning their products and processes to better fit the four R’s of sustainability – reduce, recycle, recover, and, most importantly, reuse.
As a result, in 2023, sustainability is predicted to outgrow its previous perch as a token of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and become the most critical driver of manufacturers’ business agendas, rapidly accelerating industry shifts towards a circular economy.
A GlobalData poll conducted in April 2022 indicates that over 35% of companies have changed their production behavior in the last 12 months toward achieving environmental, social, and governance goals. In the cheese packaging sector, this means adopting new technologies focused on not only preserving product quality and prolonging shelf life, but also integrating biobased, compostable materials in lieu of plastics altogether, such as paper and other green packaging solutions.
As more cheese packagers move away from plastic packaging and opt for more biobased materials, greener, more advanced technologies and solutions are available in the modern packaging space to satisfy market demand:
Paperboard Tray Seal Cheese Packaging
Utilizing premier paperboard tray sealing and forming solution can be a critical application in achieving optimized levels of preservation, sustainability, and presentation necessary for today’s consumer.
The ingenuity of paperboard tray sealing for cheese is apparent from the onset. The format begins as a single piece of flanged paperboard that is folded to form a product cavity for the tray – flipping the traditional cavity-first tray forming method. This transition prevents leaks in the seams and allows for Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) necessary for non-skin-pack cheese packaging.
Additionally, paperboard tray sealing is highly praised for its compatibility with other sustainable cheese packaging applications. It can be combined with other sustainable applications and technologies when applying packaging liners for minimized waste, as the liner is affixed to the tray to keep its form and barrier properties but does so with ZERO scrap.
Why Choose Paperboard for Renewable Cheese Packaging?
It is not simply product design or sustainability earning premium paperboard an eminent place among the top renewable cheese packaging solutions for 2023 and beyond. Paperboard applications count practical production and marketing benefits among its list of attractive benefits as well.
There is an 80-90% reduction in plastics when moving to a paperboard tray from a plastic preformed tray. Moreover, you can remove the liner and recycle the paperboard, which is most of the product tray.
In fact, many paperboard formats with shallower trays are considered among the MOST SUSTAINABLE cheese packaging options, as they use the least materials possible when packaging.
For marketing advantages, the outstanding display orientations (vertical and horizontal) and unquestioned product quality ensure optimal visual appeal. In addition, modern paperboard formats offer 360° communication on all package surfaces and reduced inventory options with availability for smaller purchase quantities to customize order sizes.
FIBER-BASED CHEESE PACKAGING SOLUTIONS
Reduced plastic and paper aren’t the only sustainable options in the drive toward effective, sustainable cheese packaging. Innovations in cardboard-based vacuum skin packaging are also emerging as new, popular, sustainable packaging styles, as their design creates optimal marketability, performance, and merchandising.
Fiber-based skin-on-flat board formats utilize up to 80% less plastic than standard VSP and still offer all the benefits. Fiber-based VSP is designed to differentiate products and brands based on their retail appeal and marketing capabilities, emphasizing looks and display capabilities with full front and back color printing and vertical display orientation. You can also shingle a broad range of fiber based VSP in the case, allowing the opportunity to display more while experiencing no challenges from product height.
Skin-on-Flat Board & MAP
Integrating MAP for better product preservation is becoming a must-have for ready-to-eat cheese products and packaging in 2023 with formats – such as sliced cheese – becoming the focal point for the ever-evolving technology. Resealable and recyclable, skin-on-flat board’s fiber-based support allows consumers to easily separate the liner from the base after use. The format also expands opportunities for retail merchandising with a thinner, more rigid packaging design too, along with MAP, for unmatched shelf-life and freshness.
FIBER PRESSED BOARD CHEESE PACKAGING SOLUTIONS
Finally, when choosing sustainable options for cheese packaging or tray materials, you must factor in barrier properties for MAP. With other formats like paperboard, you have an additional film liner that provides those properties.
With fiber-based pressed board cheese packaging, that barrier liner is already laminated, applied, and built into the board BEFORE it is pressed and cut. This more sustainable process allows you to integrate MAP almost seamlessly during production and facilitate skin packaging cost-effectively over every production cycle.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR MODERN CHEESE PACKAGING
As 2023 sees a host of new advances, cheese packaging innovations are quickly forming around essential industry concepts like sustainability, reduced plastics, renewable materials, and technologies that offer greener efficiency.
Consumers are more aware of what they want regarding packaging and continue to drive market demand to reach those goals. Savvy producers will adapt to these shifting trends by transforming and enhancing their production capabilities, reducing overall waste, and looking to their OEMs for the technology to do it.
If optimizing your cheese packaging and production to achieve optimal sustainability is on your New Year’s resolutions list, reach out to Harpak-ULMA Packaging.
Our experts combine cutting-edge technology, decades of industry experience, and conceptual, forward thinking to provide customized, connected solutions that stand ever-present at the forefront of eco-friendly innovation.
For more on Cheese Packaging Solutions, click here.
For more on Sustainable Packaging Solutions, click here.