Getting ready for the future of ice cream wrapping

What’s the future of ice cream wrapping? Filled with challenges, for sure. But there are ways to meet them.

When it comes to packaging, food manufacturers and retailers are increasingly turning to paper-based alternatives. They do this to reduce their environmental impact, and to be a part of a low carbon circular economy1.

Generally speaking, that is. But what if we narrow it down to the ice cream industry? How do producers meet the very specific and unique challenges ice cream packaging and wrapping presents – and what do equipment manufacturers such as Tetra Pak have in store to help them meet those challenges?  Read on to find out more about one recent innovation that enables new possibilities in ice cream wrapping. But first, here’s product manager – and equipment expert – Niels Fogh Nielsen to give some background.

“For a long time, ice cream wrapping material has typically been made of either OPP2 or BOPP3 foils. For one-packs, the branded products, the trend of the trade has been to use wrapping designs with a glossy feel – packaging that looks exclusive and expensive. And take-home ice cream sticks, the kind you buy in multi-pack boxes, are often just packaged in simple thin, white or transparent wrapping to keep the cost down.”

But, as you have probably guessed already, things are changing. There is legislation on the use of plastic (in the EU4, for example) to consider, and there is a push from consumers too. In fact, 53% of consumers say that if a brand has environmentally sound packaging, they are more likely to consider it5. And, of course, there’s also the brand perspective. Producers that market their products as options for the environmentally conscious want packaging that reflects this. In short, no producer of a plant-based ice cream product wants it wrapped in plastic.

 

“Wrapping may represent a fairly small part of a product’s carbon footprint. But on the other hand, product packaging is something that is very tangible, something you as a consumer can see and touch. So if you want to reduce your environmental impact, the packaging is a natural part of it.”

 

Ice cream equipment expert – Niels Fogh Nielsen

Ice cream equipment expert – Niels Fogh Nielsen

Changing ice cream wrapping material, however, is trickier than it seems. The most common new materials are thicker and paper-based. These are likely to be more costly, and the structure is completely different to plastic foil. Niels explains:

“Actually, when we start using these paper materials, we find out how easy life was before! Plastic foil is flexible and forgiving. If you buy a premium ice cream product in glossy wrapping today, you will not be able to see any lines or any creases to the wrapping. With paper-based wrappings you might, which puts new demands on the equipment.”

So while it is not a matter of simply changing rolls and pressing a button, the direction is clear. To handle the various challenges paper-based material characteristics such as thickness and structure present, fairly radical adjustments to the wrapping equipment are required. Especially since it might not stop at paper. Other, potentially more fragile, plant-based materials could be in the pipeline as well. So this is basically where Niels and his team are headed – they are preparing for whatever the future may throw at them (wrapping material-wise, that is).

“This subject is so important that we decided to set up a multilane wrapper in our training centre. With this in-house wrapper, we are able to test our customers’ wrapping materials much quicker and at any time.”

Based on the experiences from the in-house machine, a completely new version of the multilane wrapper is now being launched: the Tetra Pak® Multilane Wrapper A4.

“We've developed a new brake system and a new drive system, - a tension reduction unit, which is patent pending. With that, we are in total control of the tension – low tension, high tension, we stay in control, and can minimize the risk of tearing the paper. We’re also introducing an external rack for the wrapping material. This used to be placed on the machine, which wasn’t perfect from an ergonomic perspective – the operator had to crawl under the machine to exchange rolls, and it was quite complicated to install a laser printer. Those were the reasons we moved it out from machine, and it also meant that we had to rethink how it would work. Now, we can look back and say that we are in full control of the tension in each individual lane. That’s quite a big step forward. Because the more we are in control, the more we can stay open to any new material coming in.”

 

 

"We’re also introducing an external rack for the wrapping material. This used to be placed on the machine, which wasn’t perfect from an ergonomic perspective."

Operator and roll feed wrapping paper

Again, exactly what the future holds is difficult to predict, at least when it comes to wrapping materials. Flexibility and continuous improvements are the keys to success.

“We are constantly in a process here. Constantly,” concludes Niels.

Interested to learn more about the new Tetra Pak Multilane Wrapper A4? Or want to discuss how we can help improve your ice cream business?
Get in touch!

A new wrapping material is on its way

Specialists from different areas in Tetra Pak are collaborating to develop a new renewable packing solution: paper wrap for ice cream sticks. The goal is to create a wrapping material that combines a low carbon footprint with high quality standards in product protection.

1: Source: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/galleries/ce100/CE100-Renewables_Co.Project_Report.pdf
2: OPP=Oriented Polypropylene
3: Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene
4: Source:
https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/plastics/single-use-plastics/eu-restrictions-certain-single-use-plastics_en
5: Source: Tetra Pak® Environment Research 2019, base consumers n=7529

Girl painting ice cream with crayons

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