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Integral aesthetics

In-mould labelling has emerged the stand-out packaging format for ice-cream, providing durability, enhanced graphic design capabilities and a premium-product look and feel. Emma Rowberry finds out how Marcel’s frozen yoghurt gets dressed for retail.

FOR injection-moulded dairy tubs, the biggest advantage of in-mould labelling (IML) is enhanced graphic design. As in-mould labels are generally litho printed, photographic quality can be achieved on all sides of the tub, including the bottom and/or the lid. Also affecting aesthetics is the fact that the label is an integral part of the container, eliminating wrinkling or adhesion problems.

While looking good on shelf, IML tubs also offer the advantage of consumer security and product protection. Since most PP containers are labelled with BOPP film labels, container strength and durability are improved. An added bonus is environmental responsibility.

Although the local market for IML is still relatively small, compared to the double-digit growth seen in Europe, there is significant growth in South Africa.

Injecting technical expertise

For Marcel’s frozen yoghurt packaging, the story begins with Cabletech, the local agent for Chinese-manufactured Borche injection moulding lines supplied to Classic Closures that manufactures Marcel’s IML tubs and lids.  

Since 2002, Cabletech has been providing technical advice and customised solutions for a range of plastics processing, recycling and moulding applications – from individual machine supply to complete turnkey plants for many plastics applications and moulding processes.   

According to Pierre Jurgens, Cabeltech’s MD, his company is an industry specialist that employs only highly-skilled technicians with many years’ practical experience. ‘Our team installs, supports and maintains equipment in the field and draws on a large stock holding of critical parts and its excellent network of suppliers.

All Borche machines feature Euromap standard platens, a Euromap robot interface, removable ejector bar, hydraulic and mechanical mould-closing safety, integrated back pressure control, and double air valves and core-pulling functions.

‘Apart from these standard features, the Borche BT 150 installed at Classic Closures is designed specifically for IML and features a displacement pump and three-phase AC motor built for high-speed applications,’ Pierre explains. It also boasts an added accumulator for high-speed injection, parallel movement, and a high-speed proportional valve for accuracy, as well as an enlarged pump, motor and hydrometer and a high-performance barrier screw with mixing head and shut-off nozzle.

Integrated via the Euromap 67 robot interface is a RS side-entry IML robot for inserting the two-cavity 175ml cup labels and removal of the parts. ‘Unlike its European counterparts, the robot is interchangeable, enabling the production of the lids for these cups on the same robot system with minimal production disruption,’ Pierre adds.

Mastering flexo printed IMLs

The IML film labels are supplied by Universal Labels & Packaging in Midrand, Johannesburg. According to Dave Bragge, the labels are reel-to-reel flexo printed on an MPS servo-driven press. Once printed, the labels are post cut, in house, using high-tech servo-driven die cutters and stackers. At Classic Closures the pre-cut packs of labels are inserted into the robot’s magazines, which then place them in the mould.

‘Universal Labels & Packaging is proud to have mastered the flexographic method of producing IML labels using state-of-the-art inks and varnishes from its partners abroad. The superior quality of the inks and varnishes give our labels excellent anti-static and anti-curling properties which are integral to the IML process,’ Dave points out.

To achieve the label’s matt finish, Universal Labels & Packaging prints Marcel’s labels on 61µm ‘orange peel’ label film from TI Films in the Middle East.

Innovation for the future

In 2001, Cape-based Classic Closures began operations with the development and production of synthetic corks that MD, Martin Gassner, claims was the only locally-produced product of its kind in the country at that time.

‘Since then this family-run business has developed and manufactured a variety of plastics parts, mainly for the medical, technical, irrigation and consumer markets,’ Martin explains.

‘Through our use of innovative machines, ground-breaking technology and turnkey automation, we’ve developed a reputation for producing high-quality plastic parts and bringing distinctive value-added services to customers that other moulders cannot. From basic injection moulding to clean room technology, as well as a variety of design techniques, we have the technology to produce almost any plastic part,’ Martin adds.

Last year, Marcel’s approached Classic Closures to develop a range of IML tubs and lids.

‘I believe the growth of plastics packaging is due, in no small part, to the technologies available to convert available material into packs of different forms at high speed, and now particularly with the benefits IML affords brand owners in terms of high-quality decorative appeal.’

‘I’ve known Pierre at Cabletech for a long time having installed a number of machines supplied by him in the past. When it came to purchasing new injection-moulding equipment for our IML production, Cabletech was a natural choice,’ Martin explains. ‘The Chinese-manufactured Borche equipment was also a natural choice as they cope well with our capacity requirements and the price/quality ratio is just right,’ he adds.

‘Classic Closures has bought two new Borche injection moulders, one already installed and the other coming soon. ‘We’re already manufacturing 175ml and one-litre tubs and lids, and the second injection moulder is being installed in anticipation of the launch, in April, of our 500ml, two-litre and five-litre offerings.’

Niche market for IML

‘When approached to develop IML tubs for Marcel’s we looked at the market and realised there’s a niche market requirement for supplying small- to medium-size product manufacturers,’ Martin elaborates. ‘We’re currently producing 600 000 units/month on our first line – for Marcel’s, Woolworths’ Slimmers Choice frozen yoghurt and for Lecca iL Gelato – while the second line is being installed to cope with increasing demand. Marcel’s volumes have doubled during the time we’ve been producing its IML tubs and lids,’ Martin enthuses.

A major benefit Martin believes he has over competitors is that he purchases all his moulds in China. As a toolmaker himself, Martin knows what he’s looking for in a good mould. ‘I’ve been travelling to China for many years and now have an excellent selection of tool rooms at my disposal. I’ve done my homework and have identified specialist tool rooms manufacturing high-quality moulds for lids and tubs.’

The biggest benefit of purchasing moulds in China, Martin believes, comes in the form of turn-around times. ‘I can have moulds manufactured within 38 days in China,’ Martin points out. ‘I always fly to China to check the run before they’re shipped to South Africa; and their timing is so precise I can book my flights based on the dates they provide me with at the outset,’ he exclaims.

‘It was because of my connections in China that we were able to develop and begin production for Marcel’s in just five months. I believe there are two parameters that affect companies’ profitability: product mix and production efficiency. What Classic Closures offers is an ability to manufacture quality product at a fast and effective rate,’ Martin concludes.

[Ed’s note: For more about Marcel’s gourmet frozen yoghurt, turn to page 70.]

T + 27 011 7040824

Classic Closures
T +27 021 5348140

Universal Labels & Packaging
T + 27 011 3154513 (David Bragge)


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