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Fresh produce packer opts for f/f/s bagging

Installs two vertical form/fill/seal machines to optimize operating flexibilities.
Lancaster Foods, LLC, Jessup, MD, a wholly owned subsidiary of Guest Services, Inc., is one of the largest wholesale and fresh-cut produce processing companies on the East Coast. The company packages fresh products for both retail and foodservice markets over the length of the eastern seaboard from New England and Upstate New York to Florida. Retail bag sizes range from 2-oz to 16-oz. Foodservice bag sizes are from 1-lb to 5-lb.The fresh produce—for example, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and sliced apples—is packaged in clear film bags. In order to maximize packaging efficiencies, Lancaster Foods opted to implement vertical form/fill/seal bagging equipment. To accomplish their packaging efficiency goals, Lancaster Foods selected Vegatronic 1000 and 2000 form/fill/seal bagging machines from Ilapak. These stainless steel vertical form/fill/seal machines can accommodate a broad range of film structures and bag/pouch configurations.

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For the Lancaster Foods applications, the Vegatronic 1000 is handling four bag sizes—9-in wide x 13-in long, 10-in wide x 13-in long, 5-in wide x 6-in long, and 8-in wide x 10-in long. The Vegatronic 2000 is running 15-in x 14-in bags. The bag structure for the retail spinach packaging is reverse-printed, micro-perforated, 170-gauge anti-fog OPP film. The retail apple slice bags use 225-gauge laminated, anti-fog, oxygen barrier film.

Bagging speeds for these varied products range from 30 bags per minute to 85 bags per minute, depending on product and package size. All the bags are date-coded using inkjet printing equipment from Videojet Technologies Inc.

Dan Verdelli, director of fresh cut operations for Lancaster Foods, says, “These machines were installed and commissioned in the Fall of 2009. They were chosen based on their reliability, versatility, and ease of operation and maintenance. After-sale service support also was a key factor in this choice.

“Bag film structure varies in accordance with the needs of the various products. For example, retail spinach bags are made of a 170-gauge micro-perforated laminate OPP anti-fog film. Retail apple slices are packaged in a 225-gauge laminate anti-fog film with 140 OTR (oxygen transmission rate). Foodservice-size products are packaged in co-extruded barrier PE and gas-flushed to extend shelf life.”

The vertical form/fill/seal bagging machines were installed and started up by Ilapak service representatives with support from Lancaster Foods maintenance department personnel. Initial maintenance and operator training were performed by Ilapak. The packaging films are supplied primarily by Amcor Flexibles.

Verdelli reports, “This equipment is very operator friendly. It’s easy to maintain, clean, and changeover. We’ve found the operation to be reliable. It can run the most challenging of film compositions at high speeds.”

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