As the saying goes, things come full circle. The first example of potato crisp packaging – or potato chip, as it was called in the USA where the first packs emerged – came in 1926 with product in sealed wax paper bags. Now, nearly 100 years later, as plastic in all its forms continues to fall out of favour with consumers, paper packaging is suddenly back in fashion.
Of course, a lot of other things have also happened to snacks during this time. From the first introductions of cheese & onion and salt & vinegar crisp varieties, we now have a myriad of different and increasingly exotic flavors. Snacks manufacturers have continued to expand and diversify their offerings and new companies with new ideas have entered the market, so that today’s consumers have the choice of a huge number of different snacks products as part of multi-billion-pound global industry.
Packaging has played a key role in this growth. The introduction of new materials and their continual refinement have enabled snack products to withstand the rigours of the supply chain and reach the consumer in perfect condition. For many of the current products, multi-laminate foils and nitrogen gas flushing for the filled bags are helping to preserve quality, taste and freshness and deliver the extended shelf life we have all come to expect.
Packaging equipment has made a similarly important contribution, in particular in allowing products to be mass produced. Ishida’s introduction of multihead weighing technology in the 1970s, for example, was a game changer in terms of maximizing speeds and minimizing product giveaway; and continual design and technical enhancements since then have created even faster and more accurate machines to enable snacks manufacturers to optimize throughput and efficiencies. Whereas in the early 1980s our weighers, combined with twin bagging systems, could achieve a top speed of 110 weighments per minute for a 25g bag of crisps, today over 270 of these crisp bags can be churned out every minute, with accuracy now to within 0.1g of the target weight.
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