Food Engineering

Printers generate a clear message

July 1, 2010
Putting product info on shipping cartons at the sealing stage provides vital track and trace data, improves sustainability. 

(Left): A Videojet 2330 large-character printer places key data on a Kettle Foods case as it is being sealed. (Right): Printed data includes bar-code and human-readable information that includes batch code, product name, etc. Source: Videojet.


Kettle Foods is passionate about its all-natural potato chips. Working at full capacity, its Beloit, WI, production facility supplies rapidly increasing markets in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

When the Beloit facility opened in March 2007, the company knew it would need a system to track the shipment of its cartoned products to distributors and retailers. It chose five Videojet 2330 large-character printers, installed on its production lines, to code variable data on-demand.

Kettle Foods  uses kraft-faced corrugated boxes to ship its product to distributors and retailers. The company prints 14-digit bar-codes and human-readable information (item number, the product name, various plant codes and a best-before date) about the product to help with lot traceability during distribution.

“In our industry, labeling is key, and there is zero tolerance for mislabeling. Especially with regard to food safety, accuracy and good, clear codes for traceability are paramount. We get a nice contrast with the Videojet printers and an extremely clear code on every case,” says Bob Manzer, Kettle Foods plant manager. “It is important that we can read or scan the information every time, or we couldn’t send out the box and would be forced to take additional time to re-code it.”

Printer reliability is a major benefit. “Our maintenance manager estimates 99.99 percent uptime from the printers,” Manzer says. “We have not had to perform our own maintenance or call Videojet for any unplanned event. We can count on the printers to help maximize our production, and when I ask the operators for feedback on them, the first word that comes up is reliable.

“Right now, we have more than 17 chip flavors and 10 different bag sizes,” Manzer continues. “Because of this variety, the number of bags within a case can change, and the information to be coded on each case varies. The printers allow us to minimize the number of preprinted corrugated boxes we have to keep on hand because we can customize information printed on each box for the product packed inside. Now we can use a single case size for as many as eight different flavors of chips.”

On the production line, the printers’ compact print heads are mounted inside a machine that tapes the boxes closed and simultaneously prints the box. Once the cases are closed, they are manually palletized and shipped to distribution centers or retailers.

“The Beloit plant is automated and has a lot of electronic equipment, data collection and process control,” Manzer says. “The printers easily integrated with our processes because they are durable, reliable and easy to use, even when we run them 24 hours per day, up to six days per week.”

Changing code information takes a minute or less. Operators select the product SKU from a preprogrammed menu that is accessible via the printer’s interface. All information to be coded is automatically set up.

Another of Kettle Foods’s major initiatives is to promote sustainability by continually reviewing packaging options to be more environmentally friendly.

“We like to print right on the box,” Manzer says, “because we can avoid wasted labels, waste from label backings and wasted time applying labels.”

For more information:
Theresa DiCanio, 800-843-3610, info@videojet.com