As demand for dairy snacks, single servings and customized products grows, pouch packaging captures a greater share of the dairy case. That’s because the versatile pouch form offers convenience features like dispensability, reclosability and extended shelf life.

For example, reclosable standup pouches make it easy for consumers to open and reclose packs of shredded cheese. One machine uses zipper tape on printed rollstock then forms, fills and seals 8-, 12- or 16-ounce standup pouches. Press-to-close or slider zipper-equipped standup pouches also are favored for individually wrapped dairy snacks.

One form-fill-seal (FFS) machine is the 3-A-compliant FBM 300 from SN Maschinenbau of Wipperfürth, Germany, and sold in North America by PPi Technologies Group, Sarasota, Fla. Another machine is the FFS Solitaire from Viking Masek Global Packaging Technologies, Oostburg, Wis.

“Our vertical [machine] is very popular in the dairy industry overall, and is great for quickly packaging simple pillow bags of dairy snacks,” said Viking Masek President Rick Leonhard.

Continuous motion eliminates the need for the packaging film to stop and start each time a bag is filled and sealed.

“This means quicker throughput. When combined with a high-speed, multi-head scale, this machine can package multiple packages of cheese snacks per second,” Leonhard said.

Fast changeover for sizes, styles

If versatility is needed, some vertical FFS machines can deliver a range of pouch sizes and styles, including pillow, standup and quad seal. A single machine not only saves floor space, but also decreases downtime for changeover.

“Often in the past, multiple bag types required multiple pieces of packaging equipment,” Leonhard said. “We just sold a vertical FFS MS400 packaging machine to a dairy manufacturer that will package cheese products in both flat pillow bags and standup Doypack bags on that single piece of equipment. All it takes is a simple, tool-free changeover to switch to a different bag style. This machine is servo-driven, which ensures precise sealing, and is also washdown so it can easily be sanitized.”

Leonhard said he has seen more demand for premade pouch filling machines. He said these bag types provide “a great canvas for marketing” and often act as their own “billboard.”

“They are also functional, offering portability and convenience for consumers and often sporting reclosable options like zippers,” he said. Fill-seal machines pick up, open, fill and seal preformed pouches.

Packaging for dairy snacks

Pouches with a short straw-like fitment equipped with a closure make it possible to eat a single serving of yogurt without a spoon. Innovations for fitmented pouches include a machine which sterilizes pouches and caps in a patented warm hydrogen peroxide gas atmosphere that eliminates the need for post-treatment rinsing and can extend product shelf life up to 90 days. (PPi Technologies supplies the machine.)

With what Leonhard described as the “snackification” trend in full swing, he anticipates that more dairy products will be packaged in single-serving stick pack pouches.

Stick pack machinery can form, fill and seal liquid and powder products in up to 20 lanes simultaneously. Options like tear notches and pour spouts are popular on sticks because of their convenience for all consumers, including children and individuals with limited dexterity.

As the use of pouches grows, so does demand for automated pouch loading. Automation increases output, minimizes risks associated with repetitive motion and reduces labor requirements. One machine (the Cryovac BL75 autoloader from Sealed Air Corp., Charlotte, N.C.) can triple the typical manual rate (about 15 pouches per minute) by matching the speed of the rotary vacuum chamber machine and eliminating the need for a dual infeed.

The company has had 30 dairy installations in Europe and three in North America, said Arica Drake, Sealed Air’s equipment marketing director. She said additional installations are planned for the first part of 2017.

Sealed Air’s stainless steel autoloader features easy washdown, hygienic design and quick changeover between block cheeses (provolone, mozzarella, Swiss, Cheddar, Muenster and Gouda) ranging from 8 ounces to 20 pounds. Bag sizes range from 5 x 8 inches to 14 x 28 inches. The autoloader often functions as part of an integrated line, which includes a rotary vacuum chamber and shrink tunnel.