Small cartons herald big growth

Bernard Abrams

January 29, 2014

7 Min Read
Small cartons herald big growth

In no uncertain terms, Johanna Foods is going for growth, regardless of current economic conditions. Approaching the peak of a three-year program of almost geometric production increases, the company is nearing its goal of reaching first place in juice, drink and yogurt market penetration.

Now, it's creating its own segment and mastering the means to serve it. As the result of being first in the U.S. to install an innovative gabletop cartoning machine specifically tooled to fill 6-oz not-from-concentrate fruit juice containers having an extended shelf life, Johanna is moving into distribution, including institutional and recreational outlets, that some competitors can only envision.

Installed over the holidays at the same time as new yogurt-labeling capability (see story, opposite page), the new machine plugged so easily into the company's approach to equipment systems integration that, during a PD visit a few weeks later, it was operating near its 150/min target output. "It fits in logically," Johanna marketing vp Melinda L. Champion told PD during the visit. "This is a juice market we've considered for awhile, and the new packaging line is the road to reaching it."

With liquid production capability at 75 million gal/year, resulting from an expansion to more than 600,000 sq ft of manufacturing space at its Flemington, NJ, operation, Johanna is bucking the economic tide with a flow-through to inundate all of its East Coast markets, while still serving others, including private labels.

First online
Johanna's premium natural Tree Ripe® orange juice is the first product to find its way into the 6-oz carton, with another not-from-concentrate under the same trade name combining orange, strawberry and banana juices. The orange juice is also the first to be packaged on the new line headed up by Evergreen Packaging Equipment's Model EMP-1, using gabled paperboard cartons produced by International Paper.

On a two-up basis, a totally enclosed machine receives, erects, sterilizes, fills and closes 6-oz gabled cartons at speeds to 150/min.

"The decision to go forward with the new machine," Champion says, "is based on our history with Evergreen equipment and our decision to use only extended-shelf-life systems with larger gabletop cartons. It's also good to be first with a system that holds so much potential."

Indeed, the EMP-1 is built on Evergreen's EQ5 platform (Johanna installed the earlier model some years ago for larger-capacity gabled cartons). But it is tooled for high output of the 6-oz carton, though also capable of handling 4-, 8- and 10-oz sizes, Evergreen beverage business development manager Bert Levinson informs PD.

For one thing, the machine, described as an extended-long-life system, is a piston filler, with two rows of three Posi-Fill® filling valves each. For another, International Paper supplies the carton with a gable-side, foil-based patch under a circular die-cut in which to insert the film-wrapped straw affixed to the carton by glue further downstream.

It's not only the flexibility of the machine that enhances its desirability, but also the cleanliness of the operation. Filtered sterile air, changed 12 times/min, is supplied under positive pressure and exhausted to keep contaminants from entering the machine as the automatic sanitizing system fogs mandrels and carton-top breakers.

At the machine's entryway, twin magazines feed carton blanks onto a pair of mandrel wheels for erecting. Bottom heat sealers close the carton bases as they index forward toward filling.

Before the cartons enter the fill section, their interiors are sprayed with an atomized mixture of filtered air and hydrogen peroxide preheated to 150 deg F, with a spray system for each fill line. They then transfer into the sterilizing chamber, where nozzles blow sterile air heated to 400 deg F, elevating the temperature of the hydrogen peroxide to its maximal bactericidal effectiveness and then vaporizing it to a level below the mandated 0.5 parts/million.

Cartons exit the machine, top, on double-lane powered conveyors, where they can be inspected before proceeding downstream. Single-filing past an ink-jet coder that applies codes to undecorated side-gable surfaces, above, the cartons give the juice a 90-day shelf life.

Separately within the filler frame cleaning enclosure, as the sterile air is supplied, germicidal ultraviolet lamps shine on all exposed surfaces to maintain the sterile atmosphere. Because the line has a higher positive pressure than that found in the enclosure, an operator can make changes in the top breaker, the fill mechanism and the top-seal jaws without the need to take down the machine for resterilization.

Clean fill
With automatic controls keeping the product tank filled to operating capacity, the fill enclosure has its own air filtering and sterilizing system. As the process is completed, ovens heat the PE coating on the top flaps, and high-compression sealing jaws and seal configurations contribute to improved shelf life.

In a relatively tight space, above, pouched straws are automatically glued to the cartons' sides prior to tray insertion and film wrapping.

The double-file movement of the cartons through the filler continues as they move by powered conveyor out of the machine. The conveyors converge to single-stream the cartons to receive pouched straws, applied by a Tetra/Tubex Model 21 applicator. T/T also supplies the straws.

As they voyage downstream, the cartons pass through a Videojet Excel 2000 printer from Marconi Data Systems for application of an ink-jet code. They then progress to a LAN Model 1081 multipacker, acquired from Shrink Packaging Systems, that erects and loads eight cartons in a 2 x 4 pattern into a paperboard tray from International Paper and then wraps the tray with a 75-ga vinyl film made by AEP Industries and bought from SPS.

Completing the packaging line's operation is the case packing, done by a Model 3000T packer produced by Zepf Technologies. Automated packoff by an HK Systems Model SPLX palletizer, acquired through East Coast Conveyors, is followed by stretch wrapping by a Lantech Model S-1503 purchased through Viking Criterion with a multilayer PE-based film from Pliant/Huntsman, which Viking also supplies.

"Installation of the new packaging line, plus other changes now in the works, will make us the largest ESL operation on the East Coast," Champion asserts. "Our goal," she adds, "is to market the highest-quality, best products we're capable of in all of our distribution area.

"In terms of the juices, the new line gives us a minimal seventy-day shelf life, so that area could well be expanded into regions and markets where there's a real demand for the highest-quality products. We intend to serve it."

Right now, Johanna is keeping a three-shift schedule in a five-day week to meet current demand. As this grows, "It will be time to knock down a few walls," Champion says, "and expand a little more."

More information is available:

Filler: Evergreen Packaging Equipment, 319/399-3200. Circle No. 219.

Carton/tray: International Paper Co., 800/223-1268. Circle No. 220.

Applicator/straw: Tetra/Tubex,540/967-0733. Circle No. 221.

Coder: Marconi Data Systems, Inc., 800/654-4663. Circle No. 222.

Multipacker/film representative: Shrink Packaging Systems Corp.,888/574-7465. Circle No. 223.

Film: AEP Industries, 822/999-2374. Circle No. 224.

Case packer: Zepf Technologies, 727/535-4100. Circle No. 225.

Palletizer: HK Systems, 800/457-9783. Circle No. 226.

Palletizer representative: East Coast Conveyors, 732/863-4790. Circle No. 227.

Stretch wrapper: Lantech, 800/866-0322. Circle No. 228.

Stretch wrapper/film representative: Viking Criterion, 718/392-7400. Circle No. 229.

Film: Pliant Corp., 866/878-6188. Circle No. 230.

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