Pre-packaged vegetables and fruit are indispensable in the supermarket. Now that the ‘less plastic’ trend is prominent, a packaging company must be able to respond quickly and that is not possible without functioning and flexible machinery.
At IQ Packing in Waddinxveen and Hazeldonk, they package fruit and vegetables. In Hazeldonk, it is mainly soft fruit, such as blueberries, that moves over the packaging lines. In Waddinxveen it ranges from turmeric to ginger and from passion fruit to mango. And from week nine it will again be eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and citrus fruits.
Packaging of all these different products is no problem, partly thanks to the machinery that IQ Packing has at its disposal: flow pack, top seal, stretch film and net packaging. “We are broadly oriented and very flexible. If customers call today with an urgent job, we can almost always tackle it," says director Rob Bondt. “How is that possible? Because we have many machines."
Packaging line for blueberries at IQ Packing in Hazeldonk
Rob is an entrepreneur who dares to take risks. He invested in Natural Branding, the laser technology with which you burn information on the product. Three years ago he bought a machine for packaging blueberries without having a single customer at that time. Rob: “My shareholders had reservations. "How do you know it's going to be a trend, do you already have customers?"
"Of course I wasn't 100% sure that it was the right investment. But as an entrepreneur you have to dare to take risks. I noticed that supermarkets increasingly asked for different volumes and that we had to repack the prepackaged blueberries of our international suppliers more and more often. And so I had to have that machine first, after all because fresh produce is a day trade: if you have a new customer today, you have to be able to deliver tomorrow.”
Labeling machine with weighing function
Another example of machines that IQ Packing has in the production hall are the fully automatic weighing and pricing machines (type ES 7001) from Espera. The weighing function ensures that the label is only applied if the minimum weight actually corresponds to the indication on the label. An employee manually fills cardboard trays with turmeric on a scale.
Then they roll over the line where they are first provided with a flow pack. After the double check on the scale, the label with weight indication follows. If it concerns a hard type of fruit or vegetable, the machine can press a little more firmly. But if grapes go over the line, the machine stamps extra carefully.
When the ‘Dutch season’ starts in week nine, the ES 7001 runs at full speed for peppers: the 3-in-1 pepper traffic lights and tomatoes. What is ordered one day is often the next day in a supermarket. Whether it is winter, spring, summer or fall, Rob cannot afford to have machines inactive. The reliable relationship he has with Espera’s fresh produce expert Mischa Schmitz is therefore of vital importance. "Offering a machine for an attractive price-quality ratio is not the hardest part," he says.
“It's about what you have to offer at the moment when a failure occurs, while thirty pallets of peppers have to be sent out the next day. At such a moment I know that I can count on Espera."
When it comes to fresh produce, Mischa knows all the ins and outs. “It is a very dynamic industry. That means that we too have to be dynamic. When Rob has something in mind, he can call me and say, "In three weeks I have to have that machine!" In such a case, I always provide a solution. Virtually no packaging is impossible with our machines."
Barry Bondt (right), the son of the owner Rob Bondt from IQ Packing and Mischa Schmitz from Espera-the Netherlands
Trends in packaging
Packaging is a good way to distinguish yourself from your competitors and to generate emotion. According to Rob, the ’less plastic’ trend is definitely number one. “The trays for grapes now don't get a lid but rather a foil. And plastic packaging and stretch films are increasingly being replaced by apples in cardboard trays and laser-printed cucumbers. The disadvantage however is that the shelf life is declining rapidly and that the consumer is less able to judge the quality of the product. The Dutch want less plastic, but are also spoiled with perfect products that are all impeccable and here cardboard is less practical. So the search continues for the right middle ground."
Berries in shaker
In Hazeldonk, IQ Packing responds to another important trend with the packaging of blueberries. The berries arrive after two weeks of sea freight and are packaged cold in shakers: like the cups with snack fruit. Rob uses two Espera labeling machines (ES 1223 and ES 1101). “Perfect machines to neatly label these cups on the side,” says Rob. And then quickly to the stores, where consumers are tempted to snack healthy thanks to this packaging.
This article was previously published in edition 11, 33rd volume of Primeur. View www.agfprimeur.nl for the original Dutch article.