The world population is growing. At the same time, the economies—particularly in the emerging markets—are developing very rapidly. Incomes are increasing and as a result so does consumer spending since there is a huge pent-up demand.
The global food and beverage industry is a highly dynamic growth market, and the global spending on food and beverages will continue to rise. In 2014, around €2,632 billion (US$2.89 billion) were spent for packaged food and beverages.
The British market research institute Euromonitor assumes that by 2019 the expenditure will have risen by 23 percent up to €3,340 billion. Rising global demand for food and drinks, and also for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, requires more products to be produced. This will result in growing investments in machinery and equipment.
The global demand for packaging machinery continues unabated. In 2013, world trade reached €18 billion, a new record and an increase of five percent compared to 2012. Hardly any other segment of mechanical engineering can look back on a similarly dynamic development.
For many years, Germany has been the largest exporting nation of packaging machinery with a global market share of 29 percent in 2013. Italy follows with a market share of 28 percent. These figures are followed at some considerable distance by China (five percent), the US (four percent) and France (four percent).
Rising Global Demand
In 2014, 757 million tonnes of packaged foods were sold worldwide. In 2019, that will rise to 854 million tonnes—an increase of 13 percent. The biggest growth markets for packaged foods are in Asia, the Middle East/Africa and Latin America. These three regions together make up 55 percent of the entire trade volume.
The global demand for beverages shows a roughly similar picture as that of packaged foods. In 2014, the sale of beverages stood at 911 billion litres. This is estimated to rise to 1,079 billion litres by 2019, an increase of 18 percent.
In the beverage sector, too, the biggest growth markets already lie in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa. In the coming years, the demand in Asia, the Middle East/Africa and Latin America will develop at a disproportionately higher rate compared to the world market.
This growing global demand for food and beverages makes it necessary to increase production. The investment in machinery and equipment will grow accordingly. The food and beverage industry is one of the largest groups of buyers of packaging machinery. Around 60 percent of all produced packaging machines go into this industry.
Global Mega Trends
Resource efficiency is a topic that has been moving the industry for some time and will continue to do so. This is not just about the use of some energy efficient components, but rather achieving a high yield of good products because every subsequent step in a production line increases the value of manufactured goods.
In other words, the largest share of energy is attributed to the product itself, followed by the packaging material. Here, packaging machinery manufacturers can contribute as well. One example is ultrasonic sealing.
The sealing processes very much decide the quality and tightness of tubular bags—and therefore, influence the product’s shelf-life. The disadvantages of heat-sealing processes are the heat input into the product as well as possible leaks in the sealed seams, particularly if they are wetted with the filled product. The product emerging from the leaky bags will contaminate the tools and requires frequent cleaning of tools and machine.
Both packaging and sealing layer can be brought to melt under pressure in narrowly defined areas between sonotrode and anvil and combine cohesively when an ultrasonic sealing process is applied. It is of particular importance that this process provides clean and tight sealing seams even with product soiled films.
Ultrasonic sealing systems are also characterised by high energy efficiency and very short sealing times between 80 and 200 ms. Further, the method achieves significantly narrower sealing joints, which results in a larger number of tubular bags being produced per film roll. Thanks to all these advantages, ultrasonic sealing achieves a significantly higher yield of good products in comparison to hot and cold sealing.
Convenience Remains Key
The consumer demand for convenient and easy-to-use products continues to increase. The trend is food and drink you can consume easily or at work.
For consumers, it is important that they require little or no time for preparation. Snacks have also been on the rise for years and are developing into a mega trend. Consumers increasingly buy fresh products from the refrigerated section.
All these are offered chilled and without thermal preservation or preservatives. They can be consumed immediately and with little time or processing effort. Here, primarily small and single portions are an important sales driving force—and each year new products are being launched.
Inert Gas For Longer Shelf
Especially in the sensitive convenience segment, hygiene and durability as well as gentle processing and packaging solutions are of particular importance.
A very effective method to grant food a longer shelf life is packaging under inert gas, also called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). The process preserves the original taste, appearance and consistency of the food and makes it more durable.
The proportions of the component gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2), are individually adjusted to the product. Particularly for products with low fat and high moisture contents, it is of utmost importance to inhibit the growth of microorganisms— this can be achieved with MAP by using an antibacterial protective gas atmosphere.
For products high in fat, but with a low water content, however, the main target is the protection against oxidation.
For MAP, the gas-tightness of the protective gas packaging is of ultimate importance. Faulty seals resulting from tiny leaks can lead to aroma and flavour losses and to premature spoilage. Gas tightness measurements for quality control are therefore a must when using MAP. Depending on requirements, one can either take random sample measurements in the laboratory or integrate test chambers for in-line process control within the packaging lines.
People are different and so are their habits and preferences when it comes to food and drinks. The number of product types is immense and at the same time, the life cycle of a product is often very short.
The ability for innovation and a high responsiveness to changing consumer trends is crucial for companies in the food and beverage industry in order to remain competitive. This is true not only for recipes, but also for packaging shapes and sizes.
There is a rising demand for fully automated, customised packaging systems that increase productivity, reduce staffing costs and allow hygienically perfect processing.
Manufacturers often process several products on one and the same line. To do this, the packaging machine must be extremely flexible and allow a quick and easy resetting to new formats thus enabling producers to create different packaging designs and configurations.
Automated packaging technology, designed to ensure maximum speed and flexibility and gentle handling of products, will make it possible to adapt the produced goods to consumer preferences quickly and promptly.
In countries with a large population and high population growth, such as in Asia, the focus of the end user industries is directed on the continuous high performance of a system to provide people with high quality and safe food and beverages.
Focus On Hygiene
Food safety is increasing in importance worldwide. This is leading to more stringent regulations in terms of hygienic processing and packaging.
Machines and equipment must comply with the rules of hygienic design. This means no leftover products, soil or micro-organisms must be able to form a residue inside cavities and gaps.
On top of that, machines and components must be easy to clean. This is the only way to eliminate microbiological hazards. Automated processes are generally more hygienic than semi-automated processes, since the risk of contamination is reduced with fewer operators coming into contact with food. This is why more and more robots are used for packing food products.
Quick pick-and-place robots in particular are important elements in automating packaging lines. They offer a high degree of flexibility, increase productivity, reliability and production reliability. The use of robots also guarantees consistently high processing quality, as fatigue and consequent lapses in concentration, the main causes of errors and fluctuations in manual work quality, are eliminated.
Modern machine vision systems ensure full product enjoyment: They detect defective products, identify whether they are lying in trays correctly and ensure that only undamaged products are packaged and offered for sale.
State of the art machine vision systems equipped with 3D scanners are able to identify the volume and— provided the products’ density remains consistent—the product weight as a basis for a high quality collating and grouping process.
The robots are able to complete the individual product information so that it lies within a specific weight range. Depending on the application, these optimisations make it possible to save up to three percent of raw materials that are currently overproduced in order to meet statutory regulations.