In this audio podcast, he explains how leading retailers are beginning to recognise the machinery sector’s unique ability and willingness to help tackle many of the environmental challenges facing packaging.
As Williams explains, in the past there has been little direct dialogue between retailers and equipment suppliers. “But now we’re seeing a major retailer engaging directly with the supply chain, including the machinery manufacturing supply chain,” he said.
The company said it was interesting to see its own sector being involved like this, alongside – and with the approval of – its customers.
‘Reduce, reuse, recycle, replace’
For the past couple of years, Ulma has applied the mantra of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, replace’ – the ‘four Rs’ – to its equipment capabilities through a sustainability project under the ‘We Care’ banner.
The category being discussed with the unnamed retailer, food manufacturer and supply chain partners was ‘top fruit’. “The retailer was asking, if they were scoping out a production line today with the philosophy of the ‘4Rs’, what that would look like,” Williams reported. “What does that mean for the supply chain? What’s it going to cost?”
A similar analysis could be applied to other aisles in the supermarket, he said. “The opportunity is enormous to take a focus like this on all categories.”
Much of the equipment on Ulma’s PPMA Total stand would have a role to play in any such sustainability strategy. The company’s VTI 640 vertical form-fill-seal (VFFS) machine was shown applying its Tight Bag and Venturi systems to leaf products and other fresh produce.
These technologies are designed to reduce the size requirements for a VFFS bag. Tight Bag extracts air from the bag at the sealing stage. The Venturi system pulls items such as salad leaves to the bottom of the bag. This is meant to reduce the risk of damage to the product and to help prevent product being trapped in the seal, while allowing a smaller bag size to be used.
Ulma’s ‘We Care’ approach has been applied across its VFFS machines, horizontal wrappers, tray-sealers and thermoformers. “We’ve worked to ensure our machines are capable of handling a range of more recyclable and sustainable substrates, both now and in the future,” said Williams. In the UK alone, this has meant engaging in a close dialogue with at least 20 film producers.
Of the PPMA Total Show as a whole, MD of the company Chris Pickles said in a statement: “The event provides the perfect platform for Ulma to showcase a wide range of innovative packaging solutions.”