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Irish coffee channels freshness

Bewley’s Ltd. in Ireland is the first to preserve freshness with a cost-saving method that eliminates degassing valves and boosts bagging speeds 10%.
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An award-winning method to preserve the freshness of bagged coffee has been brewing in Ireland. Bewley’s Ltd. Dublin uses Ampac’s Jamison Freshness System™ as an economical method of degassing bags of roasted coffee in ground or bean form without the use of an added device.

Bewley’s began using the JFS in late 2002 after several months’ development first for pillow packs of coffee and then for stand-up bags. During 2003 Bewley’s had several of its form/fill/seal machines modified to accept the method. Bewley’s received a 2003 AmeriStar award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals for this package (see packworld.com/go/c090).

“At Bewley’s we’ve always taken on and invested in new technology that we believe is a benefit and that’s what’s grown our business significantly over the last two decades” asserts Mark Reidy Bewley’s head of manufacturing for 22 years. “In that time I’ve been around every type of coffee packaging system there is and the Jamison method is the most innovative system I’ve seen.”

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The secret is in the bagging machine’s sealing die which is modified by Ampac so that the seal provides a “torturous path” for carbon dioxide gas to escape. The one-way channel opens up only under specific internal pressure and reseals when that pressure is reduced. It requires no fitment or device and it replaces button-style degassing fitments that Bewley’s had been using.

“[The JFS] is a very innovative system that’s deceptive in its simplicity yet the technology and thinking behind it is very clever” Reidy explains. “It has a lot of science behind it and is a lot more complicated than simply a channel which gas goes out.”

Bewley’s has converted four bagging machines to the JFS technology. The turnaround time for Ampac to modify a sealing die is 10 days according to Reidy. That conversion cost varies by machine but on average is $3 according to Reidy.

Rates rise

Bewley’s says it has had no reduction in speeds as a result of the JFS system. In fact speeds have been bumped up as a result of eliminating the fitment application step says Reidy noting that they’ve been able to increase bagging rates 10% compared to speeds when applying a gas valve inline. “And we gain machine efficiencies” he adds without quantifying.

The patent-pending technology is licensed by Ampac to Bewley’s for use on f/f/s baggers including top-of-the-line Rovema Model VPK units that produce “Stabilo” packs in 227-g (1?2-lb) or 454-g (1-lb) sizes for retail sale. In December Bewley’s added a second Rovema VPK continuous-motion bagger. Reidy says the plant runs the 1?2-lb packs at up to 40 packs/min and 1-lb packs at 27/min.

“The relatively recent Stabilo format is the current ‘in vogue’ coffee packaging format for Europe primarily because the bag stands up” says Reidy. “It’s a square-bottom bag with a sealed edge that eliminates the need for a plastic tray to keep the packs upright for merchandising. We’re probably making Stabilo bags at speeds faster than anyone else.”

Flexibility in films

Also no special film is required giving the coffee packer newfound flexibility in materials selection. Bewley’s rollstock is supplied by several vendors based throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. One structure that Bewley’s helped develop is a multilayer barrier structure with a pleasing paperlike surface used for its own Explore product line among others. The material supplied is 75-ga oriented polypropylene/48-ga metallized polyester/2.8-mil polyethylene. The special matte-finish “Matt OPP” outside layer is reverse gravure printed in eight colors.

“This specification gives a nonmetallic feel to the material rather like paper and a complete matte finish to the print” says Reidy. “Coffee marketers are looking for distinction in packaging on supermarket shelves. Customers want less of an aluminium foil feel and more of a softer feel. Marketers want to raise the impression of a premium product through packaging.”

Reidy says there is a considerable difference in costs of degassing valves versus the Jamison system.

“Our per-unit materials costs are from 3 to 5 cents per bag while a valve costs at least 13 cents each unless you buy millions of them” says Reidy. “We save money on every bag we pack versus before and my managing director has a smile you could put a bridge across.”

The method also cleans up the look of the bag. “Using this eliminates the rather ugly button on the front of the pack” says Reidy. “Graphics designers have the complete front and back of the pack to work with without interruption.” The timing was good when the company’s brands underwent a major redesign last year.

The JFS also permits Bewley’s to case pack the bags in any orientation including a lay-down position. “That’s a neat trick and you can’t say that about button valves” he points out.

Reidy says the 12-month “best before” shelf life is “as good as that for any system available. We now have verification from retained samples and we’re very happy with that.”

Reidy estimates they packed 3 tons of coffee in 2003 for the United Kingdom. Bewley’s offers more than 250 items in the Jamison-enhanced bags and plans to convert all but a small-volume machine over to the technology. Overall 95% of their coffee production uses the JFS technology which includes Bewley’s own brands and private label packs such as those for the Tesco supermarket chain.

“Coffee loses sixty percent of carbon dioxide—its flavor—when it’s ground so it’s very important to pack it as quickly as possible” Reidy explains. “We go from green bean to ground packed coffee within two hours and the coffee is ultrafresh when it’s filled into the bag.” The JFS technology helps assure Bewley’s it stays that way right into consumers’ homes.

“Ampac is a hero for us” concludes Reidy.

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