According to Wikipedia, ‘instant food’ can be defined as foods that provide convenience to consumers and assists in reducing “the time of preparation/cooking and drudgery”, whereby no more than five minutes of time is required from the time of food preparation to the food being consumed.
In the contemporary world, the range and variety of instant food is huge. From instant baby food, instant soups, cup noodles, sauce mixes to beverages like powdered milk, fruit-flavoured drink mixes, instant tea & coffee to canned food and RTE/RTC packs – the number of instant foods available on retail shelves is mind-boggling.
Packaging of Ready-to-eat (RTE) & Ready-to-cook (RTC) Food
For the purpose of this blog, let’s narrow our discussion on instant food packaging to packaging of RTE/RTC food. Due to growing urbanisation, and changes in society such as changing food habits, more women pursuing professional careers, unavailability of domestic help, increase in nuclear families, people prefer the convenience and variety of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food over cooking at home.
Ready-to-Eat (RTE) and Ready-To-Serve (RTS) food broadly comprise items such as meat products like pre-cooked sausages, ham, chicken products, curries, chapattis, rice dishes, aloo chole, navratan kurma, channa masala, palak-paneer, etc.
Ready-to-Cook food includes instant mixes like cake mixes, gulab-jamun mix, falooda mix, icecream mix, jelly mix, pudding mix, soup powders, etc.; ready snacks & breakfast meals such as upma, masala oats, poha, etc.; and pasta products like noodles, macaroni, vermicelli, etc.
The purpose of proper instant food packaging
Proper packaging must essentially contain and protect the food from external contamination. This function involves retardation of deterioration, extension of shelf life, and maintenance of quality and safety of packaged food. Packaging should protect food from environmental influences such as heat, light, the presence or absence of moisture, oxygen, pressure, enzymes, spurious odors, microorganisms, insects, dirt and dust particles, gaseous emissions, and so on.
The packaging should be an effective marketing tool, and should provide convenience of use to the consumer. And before it reaches the consumer, the package should remain undamaged throughout the shipping, storage and handling process.
Points to consider when choosing the right packaging machine
There are 3 main points to consider when choosing the right equipment for instant food packaging.
1. Speed: Ideally, you need to understand your targets. How many packs and how fast you want to package them every day, should be defined. If you are a startup or investing in packaging machinery for the first time, you could start with a smaller, slower machine.
2. Pouch format: Diversity of products and goals can help you choose the machine that’s best for your operations. If you hope to widen your product range and SKUs, you need a machine that’s versatile enough to grow with you.
3. Operating cost and maintenance: An automated packaging machine is a big investment but it doesn’t stop there. Some may be costlier but deliver smoother, hassle-free performance. Focus on all the elements of operating costs and overheads such as electricity and labor to operate the line. Also, being used for food products, the machine should be easy to clean with fast, hassle-free changeovers.
4. Training: The machine you select will affect the amount of training and employee hours required to operate the machine. The advantage of an automated form-fill-seal machine is that once the operator has been trained and the machine commissioned & configured, the operator can concentrate on other tasks.
Ideally, your packaging machine manufacturer should provide the training and support you need to ensure efficient operations with minimal downtime.
Select the right packaging machine manufacturer
For RTE & RTC Food packaging, Nichrome is a reliable and experienced integrated packaging solutions provider. Nichrome has four decades of experience in the flexible packaging industry, and 7000+ installations across India and the world. For enterprises big and small, in India and abroad, Nichrome partners to add value through the entire lifecycle. Nichrome studies the customer’s requirements, goals and application challenges to deliver innovative food packaging solutions that will protect the purity of the product, improve time-to-market, and enhance the retail value of the brand.
Nichrome’s RTE food packaging machine
Nichrome’s highly advanced variant of the Pick-Fill-Seal Machine is a Ready-to-eat food packaging machine with specially designed RTE fillers which can be used to conveniently and quickly pack a wide variety of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods.
This rotary filling and sealing machine enables 2 different fillers to dispense different types of ingredients in the same pouch, allowing for easy mixing of ingredients, through gentle handling and without damaging the ingredients.
This automatic packaging machine allows manufacturers of RTE foods to conveniently pack their perishable products, safely, in a wide variety of stand-up pouch formats, which can then be subjected to retort packaging for longer shelf life.
The PFS Machine also provides a cost-effective integrated packaging solution because it is available with multiple filler options, which can be used for the packaging of items other than RTE foods.
Nichrome’s RTC Food packaging solutions
For RTC products, Nichrome offers a wide range of VFFS and HFFS machines. In the VFFS category, there are many options in the Maxima, Excel and Sprint series of automatic packaging machines. These machines efficiently pack powders, pre-mixes, instant mixes and granular products in a variety of pouch formats: CSPP, CSPP chain of pouches, 4 line seal, gusset, pentaseal and pentaseal with D-cut.
All these machines have a compact design, with a small footprint so they occupy less floor space in factories. They are equipped with PLC-based control system and touch screen HMI. With servo motor driven sealing system, Nichrome’s VFFS machines effectively fill and seal a wide variety of snacks and RTC powders with speed and accuracy.
Nichrome’s HFFS range brings the superior performance of linear technology from Totpack, Spain. The Totpack Series is versatile, and can be used for packing a wide range of powders, grains, snacks, liquids and viscous products using different fillers. The Series also offers a range of pouch formats with superior pouch aesthetics.
The HFFS machines are PLC based machines with touch screen interface. They offer both single and perforated chain of pouches with quick and easy changeover. Well designed duplex modules are available for higher outputs. To select the right instant food packaging machine for your business, consult Nichrome.