Peake Fruit is using a ZodiacTM thermal transfer overprinter from ICE to overprint date, barcode and variety information on its latest soft-fruit packaging line.
The food industry faces a constant challenge to reduce packaging and packaging waste, which is driving changes in packaging such as the new soft fruit pack format from retailer Sainsbury.
This summer has seen the plastic clip-on lid traditionally used on punnets of soft fruit such as strawberries and raspberries, replaced with a perforated film lid, significantly reducing the material used for each pack. Sainsbury also replaced the self-adhesive label on each pack with a pre-printed film to further reduce packaging and increase the ease with which it can be recycled. The generic film needs to be overprinted with product type, variety, origin, Sell-By date and point-of-sale barcode and the ICE ZodiacTM thermal transfer overprinter was the logical choice.
Sainsbury supplier Peake Fruit of Colchester has installed the Zodiac overprinter to work in conjunction with new packing equipment to handle the new format packs. The Zodiac can operate in intermittent or continuous motion so it suitable for a broad range of packaging equipment including labellers, tray-sealers, thermoformers and both horizontal and vertical form-fill-and-seal equipment.
The tray sealer is an intermittent machine but produces six packs in a single cycle and therefore the Zodiac operates in continuous motion to print all six packs as the film is drawn through the machine in a single cycle.
“To make it economical to pre-print the film we needed to produce a standard film which could be used with more than one product,” explains Robert Rendall, Managing Director of Peake Fruit. “The benefit of the ICE printer is that it can be used to reliably overprint everything from the Best-Before date to the EAN-13 point-of-sale barcode.”
CLARiSOFT® message design software is used to create the message for each product. This process is conducted off-line so that the format is guaranteed to match the parameters agreed with Sainsbury. For each new pack, message requirements are produced by Marco and then Emailed to the production site and then downloaded to the printer from a USB memory key, each stored with a logical product name.
When the operator selects a message on the colour user interface of the ICE printer they cannot change the agreed format or barcode; they are prompted only for the variable information which they are permitted to change.
The variety and origin are selected from a pre-defined list of options appropriate to the product which has been selected. This ensures the correct spelling and format, thus reducing the opportunity for manual error. The operator is also prompted for the Best-Before date which is selected from a simple calendar on the touch-screen display. For each product there is a permitted window based on the day of pick, day of pack and the date into depot. The calendar only enables the operator to pick a date within this permitted window.
“With our previous printers the operator had to manually type in the dates and mistakes were inevitable”, explains Mr Rendall. “The fact that the Zodiac limits user input to the permitted options eliminates the risk of a costly error or product withdrawal.”
As one of the operators explained, “What is good is that they even preset the rules so that the Sell-By-date is automatically calculated based on the Best-Before date, so that we cannot get this wrong.”
The Zodiac printer delivers a consistently high-quality (300dpi) overprint at up to 90 packs per minute.
In accordance with best practice an ISO–standard barcode verifier is used to check the barcode quality, which consistently exceeds industry standards with ANSI Grade-B barcodes or above.
As Chris Gent of Interactive Coding Equipment (ICE) explains: “We believe that the continued drive for reduced packaging will see an increased use of generic packaging, which can then be customised to suit specific products. As demonstrated at Peake Fruit, we are confident that our Zodiac range of thermal transfer overprinters is ideally suited to meet this demand.”