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Packaging plays an integral role in the food industry, serving as the guardian of freshness, safety, and appeal for a wide array of products. Among the various packaging methods and materials available is thermoforming. Thermoforming stands out as a versatile and innovative solution that has revolutionized the way food is packaged and presented to consumers.
Advanced Plastiform, Inc. is a plastic thermoforming company that manufactures parts and components for the food industry. Our professionals are taking a closer look at how the thermoforming process benefits food manufacturers and consumers alike, as well as the challenges faced when working with food industry regulations.
Understanding Food Industry Thermoforming Techniques
The story of thermoformed plastic food packaging dates back to the early 20th century when technological advancements began to reshape the way we store and consume food. Before thermoforming, food was primarily packaged in glass jars, metal cans, or paper-based materials, all of which had their limitations.
Thermoforming introduced a new era of packaging that offered several advantages, including reduced weight, increased transparency, and the ability to mold packages into various shapes and sizes. These innovations paved the way for the modern convenience we enjoy today in the food industry.
Modern-day thermoforming uses several techniques to create food-grade products– including the ones below.
Vacuum forming is the most common thermoforming technique in food manufacturing. It involves heating a sheet of plastic until it becomes pliable, then placing it over a mold and using a vacuum to draw the material tightly against the mold's surface. This creates trays, containers, and packaging with precise shapes. Vacuum-formed trays are frequently used for packaging fresh produce, meat, baked goods, and more.
Pressure forming is similar to vacuum forming but involves using additional air pressure to press the heated plastic sheet against the mold. This technique allows for the creation of more intricate and detailed packaging designs. Pressure-formed packaging is often used for items requiring enhanced product presentation and protection.
Twin-sheet thermoforming involves heating and forming two separate plastic sheets simultaneously, then sealing them together to create a double-walled structure. This technique is used for items like insulated containers, pallets, and large storage bins that require added strength, insulation, or durability.
Common Materials Used in Thermoforming for the Food Industry
Thermoforming in the food industry relies on a variety of materials to create trays, containers, and blister packs that protect and present food products to consumers. The choice of materials is crucial, as it directly impacts factors such as food preservation, safety, and sustainability. Let's explore some of the primary materials used for food industry thermoforming.
High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)
High-impact polystyrene is another widely used material in thermoforming. It is known for its clarity, which makes it suitable for displaying food products effectively. HIPS thermoformed packaging is commonly used for items like deli containers, yogurt cups, and takeout containers. While it offers good insulation properties, it may not be as environmentally friendly as some other materials.
Polypropylene is chosen for thermoforming when heat resistance and durability are essential. PP containers are microwave-safe and often used for products requiring reheating, such as frozen meals and microwaveable soups. It's a recyclable material and has gained popularity due to its versatility.
High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (HMWPE)
High molecular weight polyethylene is widely utilized in the food industry for its safety and versatility. It is commonly used in food packaging, such as bottles and containers, to preserve and store various food products.
HMWPE is employed in the manufacture of food processing equipment and machinery components. Its non-reactive nature and resistance to chemicals make it suitable for parts like cutting boards, conveyor belts, and rollers, which come into direct contact with food during processing. HMWPE's durability and ease of cleaning also contribute to its use in food processing environments.
HMWPE is used to create a range of food storage containers, including bins, totes, and crates. These containers are commonly used in commercial kitchens, food processing plants, and bulk food storage in the food industry due to their durability, chemical resistance, and ease of cleaning.
Benefits of Thermoformed Packaging in the Food Industry
Thermoformed packaging has brought about a revolution in the food industry, offering a myriad of benefits that cater to the needs of both manufacturers and consumers.
Extended Shelf Life and Food Preservation
Thermoformed materials can be selected with specific barrier properties to protect food from external factors like moisture, oxygen, and light. This preservation capability ensures that perishable goods stay fresh for longer periods, reducing food waste and improving product quality.
Cost-Effectiveness and Sustainability
The efficiency of the thermoforming process, coupled with reduced material waste, contributes to overall cost savings. Additionally, thermoformed materials are lightweight, reducing transportation costs and environmental impact.
Additionally, thermoformed packaging can be produced using recyclable materials, contributing to a reduced environmental footprint. Many manufacturers are now exploring biodegradable and compostable options to further enhance the sustainability of thermoformed packaging, aligning with consumer preferences for eco-friendly choices.
Customization and Branding Opportunities
Thermoforming offers an unparalleled degree of customization, allowing food manufacturers to create packaging solutions tailored to their specific products. The ability to design trays, containers, and blister packs with precise dimensions and shapes enhances product presentation and protection.
Moreover, thermoformed materials can be printed with vibrant graphics and branding elements, effectively communicating the product's identity and attracting consumers' attention on store shelves.
Compliance with Food Safety Regulations
Food safety is paramount in the food industry, and thermoformed packaging plays a vital role in ensuring compliance with stringent regulations. Thermoformed materials are made from food-grade plastics and can be engineered to provide an airtight and tamper-evident seal, protecting food from contamination and ensuring its safety.
The transparency of thermoformed packaging allows consumers to inspect the product before purchase, instilling trust and confidence in the food they choose. Manufacturers can also include relevant information, such as ingredient lists, nutritional facts, and allergen warnings, to meet labeling requirements and enhance transparency.
Choose Advanced Plastiform, Inc. for Food Product Thermoforming
With our extensive expertise in thermoforming and unwavering commitment to excellence in manufacturing high-quality plastic components, Advanced Plastiform, Inc. is here to help your food products stand out on the shelves while ensuring they remain fresh, safe, and sustainable.
Explore the realm of customization options with our plastics engineering experts, where we can tailor designs, shapes, and branding to perfectly align with your food products, capturing the attention of consumers. Contact us today for cost-effective, quality solutions to food industry plastic manufacturing by calling us at 919-404-2080 or filling out our form to get started. Serving clients throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia,