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Coding considerations for Baked Goods

Coding considerations for Baked Goods

The Baked Goods sector covers bread, biscuits, cakes as well as variants of these such as snack bars, pastries and rusks. As such a range of packaging solutions are used and so a consideration of the requirements of each is needed before deciding on the right coding solution.

Is the sector rising?

The sector is seeing an increase in healthier snack alternatives for eating on the go, such as protein/fibre rich food bars which used to be the domain of the sporty, but which are seeing an increase in popularity amongst the general public, most likely those who are time-poor but who also want to reduce their carb intake and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Sales of these types of product are increasing in the UK at the rate of 11% pa in the UK (source), whilst in the US predicted growth from 2016 to 2020 is 5.7%. (source). 

Manufacturers are responding to this desire for healthier lifestyle by introducing more gluten/wheat- free products. Larger companies are adding to their product range, and smaller artisan/niche bakeries are offering more choice in what has until recently been a limited market.

Having said this, pastries is the fastest growing category in baked goods – showing 80% growth in 2008/13, showing that we may have a desire to be healthier but we still like to indulge. (source – Euromonitor) 
Underlying these market trends is the change in the wheat price, which in itself is dependent on the weather and harvest. Nonetheless, the industry is predicted to grow steadily over the next five years from April 2016 (Source).

Coding implications 

So the outlook seems promising for both larger and artisan bakeries. But it’s still essential to keep costs under control in order to remain competitive. Having the right coding solution will help reduce waste and ensure you meet your customers’ deadlines.

Deciding which coder to use will depend on a variety of factors: 

1. Coding environment

A food manufacturing environment will need to meet hygiene requirements such as equipment that can be washed down and so require an IP55 rating as a minimum. Where dust such as flour is present then an IP65 rating will offer additional protection against dust ingress, and ensure that your equipment continues to operate reliably. CIJ printheads with a positive air feature will help to direct dust away from the business end of the printhead, which means clear codes and less risk of unplanned downtime.

2. Short shelf life/perishable goods

The nature of baked goods usually means short shelf-lives, plus little chance to rework during production, so a clear, accurate code is essential if retailers are to avoid scrappage, or worse, rejects from retailers.
Coders with simple menus and clear icon led touch screens can reduce errors in creating or selecting codes, as well as speeding up code selection during changeovers.
Quality/legibility of code is an important factor and can be influenced by your choice of technology. Laser coders have come a long way from the old dot matrix formats, and now scribing lasers are an affordable way of delivering clear, legible and permanent codes, with fonts to enhance or match your packaging design.

3. Packaging material

The range of products also means a range of packaging materials; with several coding options available for each:
• Flexible packaging, especially semi-permeable, may need a low odour coding solution such a non MEK CIJ inks or a non-ink solution such as laser.
• Flow wrap produces an irregular surface to code onto after the pack is formed.
  • Coding can be done before forming on VFFS/HFFS lines by TTO and at high speed.
  • CIJ or Laser coding are both non-contact so can print a consistently legible code onto an irregular surface after the pack is formed.
• Bread tie wraps – made of plastic and so can easily be coded with either CIJ or laser and at high speeds.
• Cartons/boxes/sleeves
  • Painted card can easily be coded by laser and at high speed: this substrate does not require a large amount of laser power to leave a mark so a large amount of information on a high speed line is achievable with a laser coder. Again an inked area in the packaging design will be needed for the laser to leave a mark.
  • CIJ is a highly versatile coding solution – the printhead is small enough to fit into a packaging line and can facilitate coding in any orientation; a flexible conduit with a choice of lengths helps in this case, as it means that the printer can be positioned some way from the point of coding if space on the line is tight. A wide range of inks is available based on colour, speed of drying, level of odour etc so it is easy to find the ink to suit your application. Some CIJ printers also have a carton coding function, so both primary and secondary cartons can be coded with the same printer: ideal if you need to set up new lines for ad hoc runs
  • Lower speed lines with regular packaging shapes could benefit from simpler coding technology such as Thermal Inkjet coders – these use technology similar to desktop printers and are easy to install out of the box. Ink is changed quickly and cleanly with one click, and as the printhead and ink supply are housed in the same unit, the printhead is replaced at each ‘refill’ meaning continual quality coding. An extra benefit of this technology is that it can replace labels with direct coding onto the packaging, thereby reducing inventory and SKUs. Thermal Inkjet is a high resolution digital alternative to roller coders.
• Shelf ready packaging/secondary packaging – alternative coding technologies can replace pre-printed shelf-ready packaging or labels. Large character coders such as Impulse jet coders can replicate high resolution imagery and information over a large area, meaning generic boxes can be coded on demand. Again saving costs and inventory on pre-printed boxes and labels. Some CIJ coders also come with a carton coding option, allowing larger codes to be applied to boxes.

With diversification in the baked goods sector, the choice of coding solution also becomes wider, so it makes sense to carefully review your coding requirements: are you well-placed to move with the industry?