by Jörg KALLMEYER
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Fresh opportunities: how product coding supports the needs of dairy industries today and into the future

Whether it is due to global market pressures, fluctuating farmgate milk prices or changing consumer tastes, dairy industries are under constant pressure to evolve. However, advanced product coding technology is helping manufacturers to address these challenges and achieve greater resilience.

Enhancing quality control

The highly perishable nature of dairy products makes consistent quality control critical to the industry. With more sanitary risks than in many other food and drink sectors, dairy companies require a faultless traceability system capable of coping with large volumes of products at high speeds. Companies also need the ability to successfully recall all affected product lots in the event of an issue. Our solutions such as those offered by product coding specialist ensure not only in-depth traceability but also enhanced health and safety at facility level, for example by reducing the level of operator intervention required. Through these types of improvements, effective product coding solutions can advance product quality, health and safety and consumer perception.

Supporting product variety

Whether it is milk, artisan ice cream or thousands of types of cheese, the dairy sector produces an impressive array of products. Yet this variety creates another challenge for manufacturers. They must ensure that their product coding systems are capable of safely and efficiently adapting to printing on different types of substrates while maintaining the pace of productivity. Alongside this, certain types of products, such as specialty cheeses, are wrapped in thin or fragile types of substrates. This requires dairy companies to achieve coding application flexibility for diverse substrates without putting product or packaging quality at risk. Technology such as a range of our Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) solutions provide a comprehensive and highly flexible solution due to a printhead that requires little intervention, guaranteeing high quality coding and increasing overall productivity as well as offering a range of food-grade inks.

Changing consumer tastes
Shifts in consumer tastes present fresh opportunities for the dairy sector. However, responding to appetites for new flavors and products demands the capacity to update or scale up production quickly and seamlessly. Diversification offers many advantages to dairy companies but also poses complex challenges because it involves ensuring that facilities are set up effectively for new packaging substrates. Here, our coding technology is helping manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changing consumer behavior with solutions that are capable of being changed over quickly and more effortlessly, or that are versatile enough to code different types of substrates.

One example of this is the Markem-Imaje Large Character High Resolution Piezo (LCIJ) 5000 Series which offers excellent adhesion and print quality onto substrates as diverse as carton cases, trays and shrink wrap, delivering exceptionally legible and durable barcodes with food-grade inks. Dairy manufacturers can also achieve precise marking with impeccable GS1(UCC-EAN)-compliant barcodes and pallets precisely tracked through the entire supply chain with our Print and Apply 2000 Series for pallet coding. This technology delivers reliable results in even the most demanding production environments, like those common in the dairy industry.

Addressing environmental concerns
Dairy product companies are under pressure to respond effectively to increasing regulatory requirements and growing consumer interest in products’ environmental credentials. The sector must be ready to implement effective measures and able to highlight these to potential customers. So how can manufacturers achieve this while also maximizing productivity? It is this question that led Yörükoğlu, Turkey’s leading manufacturer of milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice creams and other products to enhance its approach to sustainability and increasing product exports. The company transitioned from the use of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) generating MEK-based inks on its packaging to our EB588 ink, one of several food grade varieties for the technology. This MEK-free alternative supports product sustainability by generating 40% fewer VOCs under comparable operating conditions. By installing three Markem-Imaje continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers to trial the MEK-free inks, Yörükoğlu has seen a 30% to 40% reduction in consumable usage. The company has also found that the performance and speed of the MEK-free ink was equal to, if not better than that of traditional alternatives.

Our marking and coding solutions and CoLOS ® software have also helped Töpfer GmbH, one of Germany’s leading producers of organic baby food and milk-based natural cosmetics, to reduce the environmental impact of its packaging operations and to ensure precise traceability and verification capacity for the first time. The company now uses only recyclable materials in its packaging and has significantly reduced paper waste by using Markem-Imaje CIJ technology to print directly onto recyclable plastic containers.

Traceability made easier

As traceability becomes an ever-greater legal obligation across the dairy sector globally, our CoLOS ® software makes it easily feasible for even artisan and small-scale dairy enterprises to offer traceability down to the case level by easily integrating with all major production line hardware, including printers, and business enterprise systems like SAP. By integrating CoLOS ® into its packaging operations, Töpfer GmbH was able to provide traceability for the first time.  While traceability systems are already available as an expensive add-on to ERPs like SAP, they have, until now, been out of reach economically for the small-scale producer.  CoLOS ® could not have arrived at a better time for US dairy producers and their overseas suppliers as all soft cheeses will be subject to strict traceability regulations from 2026 under the US FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act’s Final Rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records (FSMA).

CoLOS ® also helps to address one of the major problems facing dairy producers especially in high-wage markets, namely the shortage of skilled labor shortage. This is because it enables the automation of packaging line verification, serialization and other processes due to its compatibility with all major ERP and MES systems in use. 

Opportunities ahead

While the dairy industry continues to face complex challenges, new opportunities also lie ahead. Responding effectively to both means embracing diversification, innovation and collaborative partnerships, alongside identifying smarter ways to enhance and improve production practices. Adopting product coding solutions capable of advancing traceability, product quality and productivity can help businesses achieve their wider goals and support the general resilience of dairy industries internationally. 

For further information on our compliant dairy solutions tailored to your requirements please click here

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