Kevin Vyse heads up Marks & Spencer (M&S) packaging innovation technology team, and speaking at the recent PPMA show in Birmingham, UK was asked what machine developments were driving developments in food packaging.
“I think robotics is playing the most significant part at the moment. Machines have to be a lot more adaptable, because things are moving so fast,” he said.
“You used to be able to lay down a line for 20 years and be fine,” Vyse added. “Now we’ve got change, change, change. So robotics, very adaptable machinery, machinery that has very little downtime between changeovers and allows a producer/supplier to be much more flexible.
‘We ought to be thinking, ‘Can this machine do glass and pouch?’
Vyse said the industry could reflect material change trends more quickly – if packaging has to be reduced, say, then manufacturers can do it in a different way with more adaptable machines.
“Let’s take a big example – glass jars into pouches. Historically a glass jar manufacturer wouldn’t have had a pouch machine. Now we ought to be thinking, ‘Can this machine do glass and pouch?’”
“It’s about adaptability. Don’t look for the big machine solution. Look for lots of little machines that might be brought into a relationship with one another to do something different,” Vyse said.
The executive explained that high-end retailer M&S makes 300 packaging changes per quarter across its food portfolio, and is always “listening and looking” to improve things.
Consumers laser lock on packaging, forget food waste
“We do want to reduce packaging, we do want to add more recycled content, we do want to reduce food waste and actually make food last longer, without adding additives,” Vyse said.
“So packaging plays a vital role – you will see much more of that from us.”
In his address to delegates at the 2014 PPMA show, Vyse issued an impassioned defense of packaging, “which has been with us for 125 years, and is in our DNA”.
“One of the big things is food waste. More food waste goes into landfill than packaging waste. So packaging plays a very important role in actually reducing food waste, and we forget that” he said.
“Consumers tend to focus on the packaging, and forget about the fact they’ve just thrown half their meal in the bin,” he added.