"As consumers start to tighten purse strings they naturally become more sensitive to food waste, especially when considering premium purchases," says Hella Neffati, marketing manager for Crown Food Packaging USA. "Packaging, therefore, plays an even more vital role in both preserving and promoting the products at point of sale."

Even if your petfood and treat products claim to have natural, functional ingredients and promise a laundry list of health benefits, consumers still want a shelf life that reflects the price they are paying for quality food for their pets. That means from initial production to the grocery aisle, your packaging needs to be strong, durable and safe.

Beginning at the production  line, Spiroflow Systems Inc. recommends its Spiroflow Type 3 Bulk Bag Discharger and Flexible Screw Conveyor (FSC) to ensure your petfood products are handled with care and dispensed as accurately and hygienically as possible.

The Spiroflow Type 3 Bulk Bag Discharger accurately dispenses bulk ingredients and/or minor additives from 20 lb. to 3,500 lb. batches by using electronic load cells directly below the top bag holding frame. This assures that the bag and load cells are safely off the floor out of the way of facility hazards, according to the company.

As an option, an integral transfer conveyor such as an FSC can be suspended from the holding frame for a totally self-contained discharge and loss-in-weight dispensing system. The recently updated Spiroflow FSC has a more sanitary modular design for greater flexibility in adapting to new applications. This is made possible by upgraded spiral screws that are centralized in the conveying tube by material, little or no degradation occurs. Screw action continuously remixes the conveyor contents, eliminating the separation risk inherent in pneumatic conveyors and maintaining proper composition of particles with different size and density.

Dust and contamination free in operation, the bulk bag is loaded into the frame by hoist or forklift and its bottom spout is sealed within the dust cabinet of the discharge chute, Spiroflow explains. Product flows from the chute into the integral FSC where a patented spout closure device lets the operator untie the bag through an access door without releasing any product from the package. Once the access door is closed, the spout closure device can be opened to allow product flow.

In reverse, continues Spiroflow, this process allows for safe and dust-free removal of partially emptied bags. This ensures a healthy environment in the process area for operatives as well.

What if your product  is organic, natural or preservative-free? How can you guarantee a longer shelf life while maintaining product quality? According to Sustaining the Organic Revolution , preservative-free product protection, recyclability, and convenience favor next-generation metal packaging for organic goods.

"Frequently overlooked is the manner in which organic foods are packaged and presented to this growing consumer market," says Neffati. "Packaged organic (pet) products appeal to a wider audience than do fresh organic products, and metal packaging, in particular, has benefits over other formats." Neffati attests that metal offers total product protection and consumer convenience alongside well-established environmental credentials. "Simply put, it is an excellent packaging solution for the organic (petfood) industry," she declares.

When evaluating packaging options, organic petfood companies must consider and balance a few key elements. For example, they must ask themselves; Does the packaging preserve nutrients and the freshness of the product itself? "A key advantage of metal packaging is its superior barrier characteristics," explains Neffati. "By providing the perfect oxygen barrier, metal cans retain all the freshness and nutrient levels of the product." Once cans are sealed and processed, the quality and nutritional value of the food is maintained for long periods of time through transport and storage on the retail shelf and in the home, according to Crown Food Packaging.

"The predominant justification for cans is that they have inherent barrier characteristics, retaining the freshness of foods without any requirement for preservatives, irradiation or other techniques that hinder the nature of organic products," concludes Neffati.

After taking precautions  in the packaging and the assembling of your petfood products, how can you be certain your product has remained unadulterated after the production process? Mocon Inc. has established Advanced Packaging Solutions, designed as a first-of-its-kind, one-stop approach for the analysis of food packaging from raw material to transport to shelf life. "Going beyond existing services of barrier analysis, headspace, water vapor, leak detection, burst, creep, hot tack, seal strength, coefficient of friction and vacuum decay, Advanced Packaging Solutions now provides a single-entry point for virtually any type of testing which can impact shelf life," proclaims Mocon in a press announcement.

The Advanced Packaging Solutions service includes:

  • Food deterioration  - determines which factors (water, oxygen, temperature, light, molds, etc.) accelerate shelf life degradation;
  • Modeling studies  - Real time and accelerated determination of product shelf life;
  • Microbial studies  - mold growth impact on shelf life/food safety issues;
  • Accelerating aging studies  - product/package evaluations to predict shelf life;
  • Chemical and physical analysis  - food products and packaging are reviewed for components, presence of contaminants and physical properties;
  • Polymer evaluation  - detailed analysis of polymers used in packaging materials, including structure and physical property attributes;
  • Gas mix optimization  - determining the optimum gas mixture to meet modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) objectives;
  • MAP system audits  - on-site evaluation of MAP system/equipment;
  • Shelf life optimization  - in-depth study of product, process, package to help extend/maximize shelf life;
  • Sensory panels  - trained human testers to evaluate taste, color, aroma, texture, etc; and
  • Transportation testing  - vibration, drop and compression testing to simulate shipping conditions.

This extensive package testing includes a broad variety of packaging types, substrates and components-flexible structures, rigid bottles, foil seals, pouches, aseptic boxes, trays and lidstock, can all be analyzed by Mocon's system.