Tray sealers installed to meet ready meal demand

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UK supplier Kettleby Foods has installed two Proseal F45 tray
sealers to increase efficiency in order to satisfy growing retailer
and consumer demand for ready meals.

Working in combination, the F45s are able to deliver speeds of 90 trays per minute, which should enable the firm to increase its productivity.

Kettleby Foods clearly believes that it is on to winner. The UK convenience foods sector has been growing by an impressive 70 per cent over the past 10 years, outstripping staple foods such as dairy, bread, meat and fruit and vegetables.

"Not only has the convenience food sector grown the fastest over these years, it is also the largest sector, with almost £17 billion spent on convenience food in 2003,"​ said a recent Mintel report. This figure represents a billion pounds more than in 2002, and almost a third - 32 per cent - of the total spending on food.

Kettleby's investment is therefore designed to take firm advantage of the UK's seemingly insatiable appetite for ready meals. In just six years the business has established itself as a major player in the UK chilled ready meals market, with 30 per cent year-on-year growth, and is looking to consolidate its market share.

The F45s have been tailored to Kettleby Foods' precise requirements. In particular, the machines feature a special 'profile cut' facility with inboard trimming of the film that removes any overlap around the trays while eliminating the risk of blade damage to the tray during the cutting process.

Proseal has also supplied a tray diverger and converger to enable trays to be directed to either sealer and then revert to a single line for checkweighing and metal detection. This provides the flexibility to run two or more products simultaneously.

The F45 is manufactured to food industry approved hygiene standards with full wash down protection. Polymer bearings are used in water contact areas to avoid the risk of corrosion and maintain long-term reliable performance.

An LCD display provides step-by-step guidance for operators to ensure ease of use and deliver fault diagnosis and production information. Proseal has provided tooling for the various CPET trays used by Kettleby Foods and pre-programmable menus enable the machines to be set up automatically for each tool change.

Indeed, Kettleby Foods claims to have been drawn by the F45's user-friendly operation, easy cleaning and Proseal's after-sales service.

"Success in the chilled foods market is all about service levels,"​ said Kettleby Foods managing director Ian Arnold.

"Any problems on the line can mean missed deliveries. There is no opportunity to redeliver the next day. That means we need reliable equipment and the reassurance of 24 hour support and fast response."

In the meantime, the popularity of ready meals shows no sign of settling down. Annual European consumption of ready meals is now in excess of 480,000 tonnes. Within the UK alone, the market has grown by 20 per cent over the past five years, and reports suggest that the trend has not yet peaked.

Studies suggest that changing lifestyles will continue to fuel the marketplace and by 2007 the ready meal tonnage is expected to top the 500,000 mark.

Big growth is coming in the frozen and chilled sectors. Currently each are level pegged at 151,000 tonnes but the forecasters say chilled will rise quicker than frozen - to 166,000 tonnes compared with 156,000 for the latter.

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