Berries in rPET Trays

Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries in rPET trays: For the new packages, which are sealed with a thin, peelable sealing film instead of a snap-on lid, berry producer Baumann Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG purchased a new traysealer.

Baumann Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG supplies food retailers with fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Demand for the „power snack“ is high, as fresh consumption is growing worldwide – and so is the market volume of fresh berries: In Germany, sales at consumer prices were around 1.4 billion euros in 2019, up 20 percent on the previous year. The agricultural production company, which is run by Annika Baumann and has been operating the berry business since 1995, is benefiting from this rising demand. The company now supplies food retailers throughout Germany as well as in Austria and Switzerland.

New specifications from food retailers

Baumann produces its various fruits in pot cultures, which are located in foil houses. This enables economical use of water and fertilizer and protects the plants from external factors, so that the company can plan harvest quantities and timing precisely. For a long time, the fruit was delivered in plastic trays that were sealed by hand with a snap-on lid. „Around two years ago, we were given a target by the food retailer to save plastic in packaging by June 2020, partly by using a Topseal sealing,“ explains Managing Director Annika Baumann. „For us, this meant converting the entire production process and investing in a new plant.“ However, in the search for the right packaging solution, they were confronted with a large, unmanageable market of different trays and sealing films.

Support in the selection process

Usually, the trading partner gives its producers suggestions regarding the desired packaging, but the plants have to decide for themselves whether to start with the selection of the line or to choose the right packaging first. Many questions follow: Is protective fumigation necessary, and if so, which? Does the packaging require resealing? What additional equipment, for example for weighing and labeling, is needed? The berry producer sought assistance from its long-time partner Sealpac. Baumann decided to purchase a fully automatic Sealpac A6 mid-range traysealer.

Plastic trays made of rPET

Since this season, Baumann has been packing the fruit in resource-saving plastic trays made of rPET. The material comes from collected, cleaned and shredded PET. The fruit is already filled into trays in the field directly after picking and brought to the target weight by a special weighing system at the plant. From this two-lane weighing cell, they are transported to the Sealpac A6 traysealer. The system reacts flexibly to the feed from the multihead weigher, as the exact same amount of trays is not always fed to both lanes. Both lanes operate autonomously to ensure reliable sealing of all trays – a first in this machine class.

Individual adaptation

The line seals the rPET trays fully automatically with a peel film equipped with ventilation holes to ensure optimum moisture exchange. Because most labeling lines operate in a single lane, Sealpac had to find a solution to bring the double lane together after sealing. For space reasons, the machine builder implemented this directly in the line: The trays run out of the machine in a single lane, are labeled, collected and picked. Another challenge in designing the system was the limited space available at Baumann. The line was designed in a U-shape to best fit the available space. This was achieved while maintaining full capacity: the packaging line reliably seals between 120 and 140 trays per minute.

Hygenic Design

„As a production-processing company, the issue of hygiene was also particularly important to us, as this means we require completely different certifications than agricultural businesses. That’s why, among other things, we placed great emphasis on user-friendly cleaning,“ Baumann emphasizes. This is where the Sealpac hygiene concept, designed for meat production, which has been adopted for fruit and vegetable packaging, comes into play: The line is made entirely of stainless steel and has a sophisticated cleaning concept. Cleaning and maintenance are carried out, quite ergonomically, at working height. Hinged hoods expose the entire machine, making all components easily accessible. The system has been GS-approved by the Employer’s Liability Insurance Association.

Topseal beats lid

The acquisition of the new system has provided the fruit producer with some unexpected benefits. Both the company itself and the retail trade benefit from optimized logistics: the trays with film seals can be stacked very easily. The transport crates can now be loaded with at least twelve packs instead of the previous six. The reliable sealing ensures that the trays are transported safely. And of course, significantly less material is used for the new packaging. „With the new packaging solution, we are among the pioneers in our industry,“ Baumann is pleased to say.