The trend towards vegetable-based meat substitutes and lab-grown meat (meat for which no animals have to be slaughtered) is unbroken. Venture investors are investing billions in start-ups and established food producers are also jumping on the bandwagon. There is a backlog demand in packaging: remarkably often new food products are stuck in outdated or inconvenient packaging. This does not have to be the case if you look at packaging at an early stage.

New food trends

According to a recent market report by All The Research, the global market for vegetable meat replacement products will reach a value of around 20 billion US dollars in 2026. The average annual growth rate is estimated at around 10 %. Europe is the second fastest growing region after North America. Also on the verge of a breakthrough are probably edible insects and in-vitro meat. There are still certain reservations, concerns and uncertainties in both areas that need to be addressed. In the case of insects, culturally grown eating habits tend to stand in the way, while further research is needed for in-vitro meat.

Sustainable packaging ideas

On the other hand, many start-ups and more and more established companies are bringing new, more sustainable packaging onto the market. The packaging material is becoming less, comes from sustainably managed sources, can be reused or composted. Packaging made from various plant by-products is available in all possible forms and for all possible applications. Companies such as Apeel are working on additional layers (coatings) made from plant materials that are applied to fruit and vegetables to make them last longer. This in turn means less food waste. In Asia, packaging made of banana leaves and flexible bamboo is increasingly replacing conventional plastic packaging.

The role of packaging

Food packaging has the task of protecting food. In addition, they should facilitate transport and provide customers with information about the product. Building and maintaining the brand are important components of a corporate strategy. Customers should be bound to the company in the long term. Here too, packaging is playing an increasingly important role. According to a study by quantilope, around a quarter of consumers in Europe pay attention to the sustainability of packaging – and the trend is rising. About two thirds of all purchasing decisions are made spontaneously by supermarket customers on the shelf. Here again, the visual attractiveness and user-friendliness of the packaging play a decisive role.

The challenge

Newly launched products such as vegetable meat substitutes need attractive, eye-catching and sustainable packaging in order to be noticed and bought by consumers. The packaging must also meet the requirements of retailers (e.g. machine-readable codes) and the legislator (e.g. declaration obligation). In addition, the packaging solution must be scalable and able to grow in a calculable way: from the low-cost manual version when launching the product to full automation. Conspicuously often, new products are either packaged in outdated packaging made of a lot of plastic or, although they are in sustainable packaging, they are supplemented with additional stickers or cumbersome cardboard sleeves. The problems resulting from this are obvious: a lot of manual work during packaging and therefore not scalable, poorly legible codes due to crumpled or poorly placed labels, defaced packaging and neither environmentally nor customer friendly.

The solution

Banding with raw or printed bands of paper or film originates from the printing industry and is standard there. Stacks of paper are aligned, pressed together and held together securely and edge-protecting with tapes of any width. Banding is also the first choice in the corrugated board industry because it prevents waste and banding systems can be integrated into large production lines without any problems due to their high cycle rate and reliability. Banding is also extremely useful in the food industry and is becoming increasingly popular. Banding, which is suitable for food products and can be printed on both sides if required, not only holds products together but also provides branding and information. Since banderoles can also be printed during banding, dynamic information is also no problem. Additional labels and stickers are therefore unnecessary. Banding is extremely user-friendly and reduces packaging to a minimum.

Machines and systems for the most varied requirements

Banding machines and systems from ATS grow with the requirements. Startups or producers who pack smaller quantities like to rent a simple tabletop or stand-alone model. This eliminates the need for large investments. When production grows, semi- or fully automatic machines come into play. In automated production plants, our fully automatic and integrated banding solutions come into play. Banding and cold welding with ultrasound have all variants in common: a start-up that initially uses a rented machine and printed banding for branding can thus use the same banding later on in a semi- or fully automatic solution. Banding machines from ATS are extremely fast. In manual operation, this significantly reduces working time and thus costs, and allows high throughput in fully automatic systems. If required, banding systems also align products or stack them into multipacks before banding.

Everything from one hand – worldwide

Banding machines from ATS are in use worldwide. The head office with the machine building department in Switzerland, seven subsidiaries and about 50 agencies ensure competent advice and the highest service quality. ATS not only sells banding machines and systems, but is also a full-service partner with long-term thinking and action, offering an all-round carefree package of advice, machine, material and service.

Written by Philip Yorke