February 2015 – Nearly two thirds of the visitors who were asked at this year’s Green Week in Berlin said they would be quite happy to put their bread into their shopping bags without packaging. However, market figures give a different impression, as there is currently an increase in the sale of baked goods packaging. The majority of German consumers prefer sliced bread in plastic bags, shrink-wrapped uncut loaves and frozen products in cardboard boxes. These are particularly popular with singles who like small portions, wrapped conveniently for immediate consumption. Various new products on the machinery market allow inexpensive manufacturing and sometimes many weeks of storage without compromising quality.
3D for exact sorting
The innovative 3D scanner Visio n-system, for example, handles the issue of image recognition on conveyor belts. Quite often small items such as crumbs and low-contrast objects are not identified in an automatic sort.
The n-system can distinguish between the three-dimensional shape of a product and various forms of soiling by reading the height and weight of the product. After the initial pick-and-place process, a specially developed robot puts the products into decorative plastic packages, if specified. This is followed by the precise palleting of the boxes and cartons for handy storage and safe transportation.
Germany has strict rules for the commercial baking of bread. German bread contains virtually no chemical additives, thus considerably reducing its shelf life. To prevent the formation of mould on freshly baked goods, it is possible to package a product in a protected atmosphere.
More and more packaging facilities are now using machines with barrier materials to prevent both the loss and the absorption of moisture. In this way they counteract any excessive oxygen content. Using particularly efficient packaging machines, this method gives pre-cut slices a shelf life of up to 30 days. Rather than applying spray to the food itself, these so-called flowpacks spray carbon dioxide onto the inside of the plastic bags or wrappers. The last stage in the process is the hermetic sealing of the packages.
The machinery is also used successfully outside Germany’s borders. The German company KW Group, for instance, has facilities in South Africa where it cuts and packages around 250 million square slices of toast per month which it delivers both to big industry and medium-sized bakeries. As well as being highly popular among the population, their bread has the advantage that its shape allows highly efficient stacking and transportation.