Cruga Biltong Improve Packing Efficiency with ICE Coders
22nd July, 2020
About Cruga Biltong
Cruga Biltong, part of the MeatSnacks Group, is Europe’s largest Biltong producer. It processes between eight and nine tonnes of fresh beef silverside every week, supplying around eight million bags of biltong each year to the major supermarket retailers. It also packs Jerky for its partner company, The Jerky Group.
Cruga was founded in 1998 when owner, David Low, started producing premium biltong to an authentic South African recipe. Since then, the biltong market has evolved from a South African niche area to a significant segment of the UK meat snacks market.
In 2014, Cruga took the decision to put its product into pouches, replacing its Vertical Form Fill & Seal (VVF) packaging machines with two pouch fillers provided by its long-term machinery supplier.
To reduce packaging costs, Cruga uses a range of generic pouches that it overprints with a barcode and data denoting product-specific information, this gives it the flexibility to respond to changes in customer orders while minimising wastage.
When using the previous VVF system, Cruga was able to print this information on to the film before filling.
David Low explains: “With the change in packaging machinery, it was not possible to do this. We could print date, batch and time information with inkjet printers integrated in the pouch fillers, but barcodes could not be printed to the standard required.
We needed a separate printer that would allow us to convert our generic packaging for specific products.”
The company opted for a standalone feeding system with an ICE Zodiac Thermal Transfer printer supplied by specialist offline coding company, PrintSafe.
Pouches are fed past a thermal transfer printer using a tight grip belt conveyor to ensure that there is no pouch movement.
The feeder pauses briefly each time a pouch moves under the printer so that the pack is stationary at the moment of printing, increasing accuracy and reducing wear on the printhead.
“The pouch feeders are fast and reliable,” says David. “We can print thousands of pouches per hour with virtually no rejects and with only one operator.”
David adds: “Alongside the feeding mechanism and build quality, there are countless other benefits. One of these is the ease-of-use of the ICE Zodiac thermal transfer printer.
Our non-English-speaking operators have absolutely no problem running the machines. My experience with other thermal transfer printers is that you need a PHD in maze solving just to change the ribbon. With the ICE Zodiac, you just drop the ribbon spool in and off you go.
“The touchscreen control is also excellent. It even tells you on a readout how much ribbon you have got left so that you can plan changeover.”
Confident in the long-term performance, Cruga has since placed an order for a second unit.
David says: “our operators are extremely happy. With the udaFORMAXX, wastage is negligible and I am confident that one operator will comfortably be able to run two printers.”