Portion Packaging of Frozen Treats: From Start-Up to Full Scale Production
Portion control cup sealers deliver low-cost, tamper-evident, sealed packaging for frozen food start-ups
With the public consuming more single portion snacks than ever, frozen food start-ups with the “next great” frozen dessert or culinary delight must figure out how to navigate the delicate balance between conserving precious capital and providing professional-grade packaged products.
When Island Fruit Snacks, an all natural sorbet company, was ready to take their frozen sorbet business to the Caribbean, they began using a table-top foil sealing machine from Wilpack Packaging. They have sold about 20,000 sorbet units to hotels, resorts, and beach bars in their first year in the Caribbean.
For portion cup packaging, that means selecting equipment that can provide the tamper-evident seals that retailers are increasingly demanding at a rate of speed that meets production requirements through the initial stages of growth and expansion.
Unfortunately, high-speed portion packaging equipment is all but unobtainable for small operations with price tags in the six figures, according to Steve Sallenback, co-owner of Legacy Foods Manufacturing, an Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based co-packer that produces and packages food products for other companies.
This has created a market demand for low-cost, manual foil sealing machines – small enough to fit on a table-top or kitchen counter – that allow food start-ups to provide professional, tamper-evident packaging from day one. And with several tiers of increasingly automated and faster models, food start-ups can scale-up as demand and revenue allow.
When Marie Wilson and her sister began Island Fruit Snacks, an all natural sorbet company they started in Brooklyn, N.Y., they had refined the sorbet’s taste, texture, ingredients, and developed a following. But they were cautious about overspending on production equipment.
“Just starting out, there is a lot of uncertainty, so we wanted to minimize our capital equipment cost,” says Wilson.
To enhance their product safety, freshness, and meet regulatory requirements, Wilson and her sister chose a table-top foil sealing machine from Wilpack Packaging, a Rockford, Ill.-based manufacturer of manual, semi-automatic and fully automated filling and sealing equipment.
Wilpack Packaging’s products range from manually actuated units that can seal 8-12 containers of various sizes per minute, on up to automated filler/sealers that can handle 80 containers a minute.
“The table-top unit was the most economic foil sealing machine on the market that fit our frozen product,” says Wilson. “The manufacturer customized its operation to the unique size and shape of our product. They also took into consideration two different temperatures: that of our product in its slushy form filling a cup, and later its frozen form to ensure product stability.”
According to Wilson, Island Fruit Snacks would not have been able to get started without the table-top foil sealing machine. “We’ve used the foil sealer for testing, prototyping, product samples and production,” says Wilson. “It’s been an essential piece of equipment.”
When the Wilsons were ready to take their frozen sorbet business to the next level, by moving to the Caribbean where they saw their greatest opportunity, the foil sealing machine manufacturer helped to optimize the equipment to the region. A few setting adjustments were necessary, as well as adapting the unit to conform to the region’s electrical requirements.
According to Wilson, Island Fruit Snacks sold about 20,000 sorbet units to hotels, resorts, and beach bars its first year in the Caribbean.
“We’re on pace to triple or quadruple sales our second year, now that we’ve expanded into supermarket chains, convenience stores, and tourist attractions,” says Wilson, who plans on adding three new flavors to the original six flavors soon.
“We’re talking with Wilpack now to find the best equipment to scale up production, while balancing our cash flow, volume, and capital investment,” adds Wilson.
Breaking into Retail
“What is the cost of not having tamper-evident packaging? Probably never breaking into retail or taking your food start-up to the next level,” says Legacy Foods’ Sallenback.
Beyond taste and value today, even small food operations must prove the product is safe for consumers, says Sallenback. Not only have consumers come to expect it, but also retailers increasingly demand such packaging as part of their food safety programs designed to limit potential liability.
“Snap-on lids alone are not tamperproof and do not provide evidence of tampering, since they can be removed and replaced without any noticeable change,” says Sallenback.
Besides tamper-evident packaging for safety, a sealed cup prolongs product quality and shelf life on retail shelves.
To meet the needs of other start-ups like Island Fruit Snacks, the packaging equipment manufacturer developed and introduced an even more economical table-top, manual, foil sealing machine called the Model-15. At a price point that is affordable, the unit provides professional-grade foil sealing at 8 to 12 cups per minute.
“For food entrepreneurs trying to get their product into a retail setting, Wilpack’s manual sealer is the lowest cost foil sealing machine I’ve seen that provides for portion control cups,” says Legacy Foods’ Sallenback. “It’s a stepping stone to help small specialty food start-ups get onto retail shelves and start building volume with minimal capital risk.”
Sallenback adds that pre-printed foil seals on portion control cups, with the start-up’s name, logo, or ingredients, can also provide branding.
“Portion control cups with a name or logo, for instance, are one of the most important ways for start-ups to promote their brand to retailers and the public,” says Sallenback.
“Today’s low-cost foil sealing machines, along with companies that collaborate with start-ups to help them grow, provide new opportunities for food entrepreneurs, retailers, and the public,” concludes Sallenback.