These so-called functional foods are popular across all generations, since they promise 100% great taste in addition to being healthy.
The conscious consumer
Today’s range of snack bars includes products designed specifically to support certain health aspects, for example nut bars to increase concentration, special bars for breastfeeding mothers that contain key vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc and folic acid, as well as protein bars to build muscle mass for athletes. Functional bars therefore meet almost every single nutritional requirement.
Due to better diagnoses of food intolerances and more frequent food scandals, almost all age and consumer groups look out for information on ingredients, manufacturing processes and product origins. Consumers demand ever healthier and purer ingredients and additives. Bars should therefore not only be made with healthy ingredients, but should be produced and packaged in a hypoallergenic environment.
The right kind of packaging also contributes to consumer decisions in front of the supermarket shelves. Key consumer information should be clearly visible and the packaging should be high quality, keep the product fresh for longer and represent brand quality.
Ready for the ‘Bar Wars’
Snacks – especially in the form of bars – are registering continuous growth. Product cycles are short, and the variety of flavors is huge. Consequently, manufacturers must be able to continually introduce new, innovative bar products to the market to maintain or increase their market share. To guarantee optimal productivity and maximum flexibility, manufacturers rely on an increase in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) for the entire system – from bar manufacturing to primary and secondary packaging as well as end of line packaging.
Bar manufacturing must be geared towards long production runs with uniform quality. This is especially important with regard to the wide range of bars. Efficient bar production requires each component to possess a high degree of flexibility that enables quick product changes. Broad product portfolios in particular build upon a consistent quality through process safety. This includes carefully balanced ingredient mixing proportions.
A high level of Overall Equipment Effectiveness is based on integrated system components. As soon as the bars have passed through the production process, a consistent product flow is safeguarded from product infeed through to primary packaging, cartoning and end of line packaging. The constant system speed of 1,500 products per minute ensures optimal productivity.
In addition to speed, format flexibility plays an increasing role. Being able to offer a range of bars in different sizes and styles of packaging requires packaging equipment that facilitates quick format changes.
Easy and quick cleaning processes are a prerequisite for the production of functional foods. Cross-contamination, especially of allergenic ingredients such as nuts, has to be avoided at all costs.
With sticky bars and/or nut products, the contamination level is particularly high, which means cleaning is crucial. The goal is to keep downtimes due to cleaning as short as possible. Two factors are decisive: gentle product handling and hygienic system design. Furthermore, optimal transport is continuous and gentle. It prevents friction, while rounded lateral guides reduce breakage and ultimately prevent the accumulation of dirt in the system. Integrated washing systems can be used on conveyor belts throughout the production process, for example. This minimizes downtime since the frequency and intensity of complete cleaning is reduced.
Bars 4.0: the bar of the future
Manufacturer benefits can be maximized with a holistic bar system: high performance and availability, simple handling, fast format changes and cleaning, minor maintenance and high layout flexibility. In combination, these factors contribute to a high level of OEE which manufacturers can now improve upon even more thanks to new Industry 4.0 applications.
Among others, Bosch Packaging Technology’s bar system supports format changes using RFID tags. If a format change is required in production, operators can use an RFID reader to identify and change the necessary components. This increases efficiency and reduces errors.
Unlike today, the process data and production parameters are available in real time on the human machine interface (HMI) and on mobile terminals, which means operators can intervene quickly and precisely – often even before a problem arises. Industry 4.0 applications provide crucial support for operating and maintenance staff and increase machine uptime.’
Josua Schwab has extensive experience in devising and developing machinery for production plants. He joined Bosch Packaging Systems in Beringen in 2008. For more than 6 years, he has led engineering and lean management efforts for a range of technologies across the company’s product portfolio. Since May 2014 Schwab has been working as a product manager responsible for primary packaging of bars.