Stoking the fires of innovation

Keen focus on sustainability in packaging has taken a back seat this time, as we explore other key developments related to modular packaging machines, the integration of robotics and 3D printing. Editor Caitlin Gittins investigates.

The packaging industry has been dominated with focus on sustainability, as plastic-based packaging has, arguably, one of the biggest impacts on the environment: it doesn’t need to necessarily be spelled out that single-use disposable plastic packaging once discarded into the environment, is harmful. With such keen focus on sustainability, some of the other developments in the sector have, I argue, been somewhat overlooked. Creating modular machines so sections can be swapped out to carry out different tasks and offer desired flexibility is one example of development in this sector; as well as growing demand for customised or stand-out packaging as a competition between brands stokes the fire of innovation. 

Delving into and writing more about manufacturing in International Confectionery has come to give me a much greater appreciation for technological innovations blossoming in a range of different sectors, but in confectionery more specifically. Designing pick and place robots has meant their applications are universal in any manufacturing sector which requires products to be moved from one place to another. This can be attributed to the growing rise of e-commerce which requires products to be packaged, shipped and transported at speed.  

In a 2021 survey conducted by GlobalData, around one third of UK consumers in Generation X and baby boomers buy confectionery from online retail sites, demonstrating a definite shift towards how we understand retail and the opportunities available for brands to market themselves online. In the context of this feature, this means needing the proper infrastructure in place to be able to handle the demand, all of which explains the rise in automated machines and robotics, as producers rise to meet the challenge all while ensuring flexibility and keeping costs down. It’s certainly no easy task. 

Creating modular packaging machines gives confectionery producers the ability to package a range of confectionery products, which is especially useful for large scale producers who have a variety of products in their portfolio. Take Mars, for instance, whose portfolio spans Snickers, Extra chewing gum, Skittles, Mars bars and others, and whose facility in Plymouth is cited as having produced three million packs of chewing gum per day (and as of 2023, will be rolling out recyclable packaging for Mars, Snickers and Milky Way bars). This kind of production capacity requires serious investment in packaging infrastructure, and perhaps the ability to incorporate modular packaging lines parts of which can be switched out to move from producing one product to another…

To read more see our latest issue here.

Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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