The UK confectionery and snacks markets may be long established, but they continue to evolve to meet changing trends and developments. The confectionery sector has seen the introduction of many artisan brands and 2017 saw a move towards more experimental, personalised and texture-oriented products. The growing problem of obesity and the link to products with high sugar content are also leading to the introduction of smaller pack sizes.
For savoury snacks, the crisp might still be king, but there are now many pretenders to the throne. Popcorn is the latest star performer, with sales almost trebling over the past five years. Health-conscious consumers are driving demand for more nutritious options, and on-the-go lifestyles mean packs that are portable and convenient are in high demand.
For businesses to meet the current challenges in confectionery and snacks, an effective coding solution can play an important role in helping them get the best out of their packaging and packing lines.
For any confectionery or snack manufacturer seeking to maximise opportunities in their sector, a reliable coding solution is essential to enable them to meet their production targets and avoid unnecessary, unplanned – and expensive – downtime. High-quality printers will deliver consistent coding, with longer service intervals and low-cost maintenance that maximise performance while minimising operating costs.
A robust construction will be able to deal with any production environment or 24/7 operation. Features such as an IP55 (washdown) or IP65 (dust proof) stainless steel enclosure, and a sealed and self-cleaning printhead offer additional protection in wet or dusty environments.
The self-servicing option on some Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printers, with no need for an engineer to attend, will also be a major benefit in production planning, providing the flexibility for maintenance to be scheduled at a suitable time.
QUALITY IS KEY
The quality of a code will not encourage consumers to select a brand of confectionery in preference to another – but it may be the reason that they put it back down again.
At Linx, our recent snapshot consumer research found that nearly three quarters of respondents look at best before dates on food. For well over a third of them, a smudged or illegible code would be enough to stop them buying the product, and nearly half would probably select an alternative.
A quality code is equally essential to make sure companies are meeting the relevant regulations for product information and traceability, as well as the high standards required by the retail sector.
In addition, the latest coding technologies can be used for enhanced marketing purposes, such as QR codes that provide consumers with additional information or are part of a promotion or competition.
Many companies are introducing lean manufacturing principles to help increase competitiveness and efficiency, and coding equipment can play a valuable role in achieving this. The overall reliability of the machine will help avoid unplanned downtime, but the printer can also support maximising speeds, reducing waiting time, and minimising waste, all of which support increased manufacturing uptime.
A printer that can handle a variety of requirements, such as multiple lines of text; human- and machine-readable codes; and even printing onto both primary and secondary packaging provides the versatility to meet different standards and regulations. Features such as self-cleaning printheads will reduce blocked nozzles and maximise printer uptime, while timely and visible notifications of low fluid levels allow refills to be scheduled into planned production line stops.
Coding solutions help to minimise waste by ensuring the correct information is printed every time, that it is legible and in the right place on the pack. Simple message selection, intuitive user interfaces, and large message storage capacities, ensure the right code is inputted first time, every time. Automated message selection and remote monitoring further reduce the risk of code errors.
Technology which requires minimal start-up procedures and where the first print is as good as the last means there is no need to leave machines switched on permanently, or to run them every day.
Clearly, there are still opportunities to be explored in the confectionery and snacks markets, particularly for new product development. This means manufacturers must be as flexible as possible in order to respond effectively to changes in packaging, be they shorter batch runs of artisan or personalised packaging, or smaller pack sizes that are more portable. Reliable printing – whether using CIJ, laser, or one of the other technologies available – will support an efficient production operation, while a quality code will enhance brand image. It is therefore important to invest time in exploring all the options in order to select the most appropriate solution.