Food Engineering

Food Packaging: Package promises fresher coffee

April 9, 2003
Seattle Coffee Co., manufacturer of Seattle’s Best Coffee (SBC), is a processor in transition, and customers and employees both will benefit from those changes.

Fresh-Close bags are easier to open, but Seattle’s Best Coffee switched to them because the reclosable seal locks out oxygen to maintain freshness.

The 31-year-old firm is preparing to move from Vashon Island, its home since 1983, to the Seattle suburb of Fife, Wash. For long-time employees, the romance of the morning ferry ride to work gave way to commuter tedium long ago, and relocation to a new 228,000 sq. ft. plant and distribution center will be a welcome change.

More spacious quarters also will allow expansion of its Fresh-Close bag closure system to packages other than 12 oz. gussetted bags. “We’re looking at the extremes you can push our new GL-26 machine to,” says Dan Wood, director of manufacturing and plant manager. “Can you put it on a 2 lb. bag’s web? A 5 lb. bag’s web?”

The eight most-popular coffee flavors in SBC’s 65-SKU line converted to the new resealing system in September, and the plan is to expand applications as more new machines come on line. “The consumer who goes to Costco wants a lot of coffee, and a tin tie isn’t going to keep it fresh,” says Wood.

Tin ties that can’t form a positive seal were a necessary evil until the new closure was developed. Mail and female strips of rigid polypropylene are hot melted along the width of SBC’s four-ply foil film bags during forming. Later, when the filled bag is opened, the C-shaped female strip accepts the male prong, snapping together to form an airtight seal. “Shelf life is dramatically increased,” Wood says, “and it makes it easier to open and close the bag.”

The GL-26, which outputs 38 bags a minute, is manufactured by Goglio Luigi SpA of Milan, Italy, and distributed domestically by Fres-co System USA. According to Fres-co’s Kevin McRae, the modular design of the machine allows the replacement of tin-tie units with machinery for the new closure.

“We had a leased GL-26, but this is the first machine with the closure system, and it runs circles around the old one,” Wood reports. The servo-driven unit boasts PLC controls, a touch screen and integration software. Once the new plant is up and running, the manufacturing team can begin experimenting with different dye heads and other modifications to apply the closures to bags of both ground and whole bean coffee and to larger package sizes.