Investment in new packaging kit is picking up

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Engelmann & Buckham's Volpak high-speed pouch-filling line in operation
Engelmann & Buckham's Volpak high-speed pouch-filling line in operation
The willingness of food and drink companies, especially start-ups, to invest in equipment for new product and packaging started to grow in 2015 for the first time since 2007, according to rejuvenated machinery business Engelmann & Buckham (E&B).

“Up to then, few food manufacturers had been taking the risk of investing in new lines,”​ said sales director Michael Lindsay. “Now, we’re seeing more from both start-up companies and the bigger, more established manufacturers.”

He explained: “One of the trends in the market is that UK packaging seems to be polarising around those two ends of the scale.”

That is not to say that there has been no investment in equipment at all for the past eight years, but it has tended to be larger manufacturers rationalising existing installations, Lindsay said. So, for example, two lower-speed lines might have been replaced with a single, high-speed line, he added.

The result of a merger

Today’s E&B is the result of a merger between the existing business of the same name and the Integra and Integrapak brands, including principals such as Volpak pouch-filling and Inever stickpack machines.

An ability to supply equipment appropriate to both ends of the increasingly-polarised packaging machinery market is important to E&B. “The companies in Volpak’s Coesia group came up with the concept of a continuous-motion rotary pouch filler, without the stop-start of a linear machine,”​ said Lindsay.

“At speeds of up to 400 packs per minute ​[ppm], you are starting to get close to bottle-filling lines.”

In the past, filling companies looking at the business case for moving from bottles to pouches for children’s drinks, for example, ran up against the barrier of a maximum speed of 200 or 240ppm for linear pouch filling, Lindsay said. This compares with up to 600 ppm on a bottling line.

Contract manufacturers

Up to five years or so ago, the common wisdom for smaller businesses and start-ups, was that brands should not become manufacturing companies, said E&B. This reinforced the role of contract manufacturers and co-packers.

“But often, once their brand is big enough, brand-owners will want more control over it,”​ said Lindsay. “It’s quite a risk to assume that someone else will protect it as well as yourself.”

For entry-level manufacture of stick-packed products such as sports gels, Spanish company Inever has the BY range of single, double and triple-lane machines, which can turn out 100ppm in a two-lane configuration.

These smaller machines also offer greater flexibility in formats than Inever’s larger, higher-speed machines, Lindsay said.

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