A bright, white windowed “greenhouse” erected in the center of New York City's Rockefeller Center in July was the setting for the debut of Cargill Health & Nutrition's new, first-of-its-kind all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener, Truvia™. Giving consumers their “first taste moment” of the new tabletop sugar substitute, the Truvia Greenhouse provided sweetener samples, as well as an exhibit detailing the journey of the product from the stevia leaf to the sachet—a journey piloted every step of the way, from field to formulation, by Cargill.
“The company has invested more than five years of development into all facets of the sweetener, first identifying the best-tasting parts of the plant and then producing a high-purity extract that is the basis for both our ingredient business and our tabletop sweetener,” says Truvia director of communications Ann Clark Tucker. “This is the right time to introduce the product because people care even more today where their food comes from, what is in it, and all the care that went into delivering it to them. The world and food companies have long been looking for a natural, great-tasting, zero-calorie sweetener, and now it is here.”
To meet the anticipated clamor from consumers for its new product, two years ago Cargill began working with co-packer and packaging equipment supplier Cloud Packaging Solutions (www.cloudps.com), Des Plaines, IL, to develop a line that could meet Cargill's requirement for 275 million sachets of Truvia in 2008. Making that goal even more challenging, Cargill designed its secondary carton with a unique four-corner glue/three-flap hooded lid. This necessitated the development of new carton closing machinery from Delkor Systems, Inc. (www.delkorsystems.com) capable of producing and gluing the hood at high speeds.
The new Kapstone™ carton closer joins three rebuilt Cloud horizontal form/fill/seal machines, a new product feed system, and custom conveyors and a carton former from Delkor to meet Cargill's high-output expectations.
Packaging reflects simple, wholesome message
Truvia sweetener is made from the leaves of the stevia plant, a shrub native to Paraguay and today commercially grown in China. While offered for years as a dietary supplement in health food stores, stevia has not been available in the U.S. as a natural sweetener until now.
Unique among Cargill Health & Nutrition's nutraceutical ingredient formulations, Truvia is the first product from the Cargill business unit to be sold at retail, in addition to its use as a food additive. Explains Cargill Health & Nutrition vice president Steve Snyder, “This new, natural sweetener leverages Cargill's expertise in specialty food ingredients, agronomy, food science, and safety, as well as consumer insight and marketing capabilities.”
Secondary packaging for Truvia was designed to both provide a point of differentiation on shelf, as well as convey the product's clean, wholesome nature. A crisp, white rectangular carton, in 40-, 80-, and 140-packet sizes, includes a functional, reclosable lid so “that the carton can be displayed on a consumer's table or countertop,” says Tucker. Cartons were designed and are supplied by Americraft Carton, Inc. (www.americraft.com), using 18-pt. SBS.
Pentagram Design (www.pentagram.com) created the spare and simple graphics that decorate the carton and the sweetener sachet. These include the Truvia logo in shades of green, along with the image of a strawberry dipped in the white, powdery sweetener. Copy on the bottom of the carton indicates that it is printed with soy ink.
Co-packer addresses unique package requirements
As Cargill Health & Nutrition contract manufacturing manager Drew Pecore tells Packaging World, Cloud was selected as the co-packer for Truvia due to “its experience, nimbleness, and capacity, and for its ability to adapt to a packaging style completely new to the retail industry.”
Established in 1929, Cloud began as a packaging equipment manufacturer, designing bagging machines, form/fill/seal systems, and rotary-drum and filter-pack machines. In 1959, it expanded its services to include co-packing. Today, Cloud's customers include the world's top-20 multinational food and beverage companies. Three facilities covering 350,000 sq ft make up its Food & Beverage Contract Packaging business.
According to Cloud vice president of sales and marketing Mike Werner, Cloud's biggest challenge in creating a dedicated, turnkey packaging line for Cargill's Truvia product was to find the space within its Des Plaines facility. “As a result, we had to tear down walls and combine several packaging rooms,” he explains. In response to ceiling-height constraints, Cloud designed a new custom product feed system to deliver the powdered Truvia product to each of three pouch machines.
From Pecore's perspective, the largest hurdle was “coming up with a high-capacity line right from the start.” Werner concedes that rebuilding three Cloud machines fast enough to meet Cargill's aggressive timeline was also a challenge, as was finding a carton-closing system that could accommodate the carton's hooded-lid design at high speeds.
Delkor provided the carton-closing solution by adding patent-applied-for “intelligent positioning” technology to its existing TSC600 carton closing machine, redesignating it the Kapstone. The technology precisely aligns the leading edge of the carton and the scored, foldover front flap during sealing using a servo-driven carton positioning mechanism that consistently produces a symmetrically sealed carton at 150/min. The system is equipped with Allen-Bradley CompactLogix controls and an Allen-Bradley PanelView HMI from Rockwell Automation (www.ab.com).
Carton closer employs intelligent positioning
Operation of the carton closer begins when a line of formed and filled cartons feeds into the machine after being conveyed from the filler, with the carton's side panel leading. As a carton enters the machine, its open lid is plowed down by a mechanical guide rail in such a way that it rests flat and unsealed on the open top of the carton. Twin infeed side belts pull each carton away from the succeeding one to create an approximate one carton-length gap or separation between them.
Next, an intelligent positioning servo wheel positions the carton's foldover front flap into precise placement in relation to the leading vertical edge of the carton to ensure that, when closed, the front flap will perfectly align with the carton's vertical sidewalls. Hot-melt adhesive from Nordson (www.nordson.com) is applied to the front face of the carton, and the front flap is plowed down 90 deg (from its parallel alignment to the carton base) to the front face of the carton. Compression rollers compress the lid to the carton face to initiate a precise, secure bond.
The carton then moves through a 90-deg servo transfer station where its movement direction is altered from side-panel leading to front-panel leading by means of servo-controlled squaring lugs. After the carton passes through this station, mechanical plows tuck the front hood flaps along the side of the carton, and hot-melt adhesive is applied. The two “charlottes,” or side flaps, are then mechanically plowed down and adhered to the front hood flaps. The carton then moves into the compression section, where the two charlotte flaps are compressed for a secure closure.
At the outfeed of the carton closer, a Videojet (www.videojet.com) 3120 laser coder adds the batch number and time, and the best by date to the carton's bottom panel.
The Kapstone requires no tools or change parts for changeover, but 24 different numbered settings—dimensional and speed-related—must be changed to switch from one carton size to another. According to Delkor sales engineer Dan Altman, changeover on the machine can be accomplished in less than 10 min.
Three-up approach speeds output
Along with the carton closer, Delkor also supplied the line with an MTF1503 tray former at the head of the line. The MTF1503 features a 60-in. forming area that houses and operates three forming heads. Explains Altman, the three forming heads were necessary to simultaneously form three cartons in a single cycle of the machine. “This enables Cloud to achieve the throughput necessary to meet Cargill's annual unit volume requirements,” he says.
To ready the carton former for use, an operator loads carton blanks into the machine's three magazines. Cartons are picked from each magazine and are transferred horizontally via carton-blank pushers into position over forming cavities. While being transferred, carton flaps pass by glue nozzles that apply adhesive to the appropriate areas. Once the cartons are in position over the cavities, forming heads plunge the cartons through the female dies to form the sidewalls, and the glue is set. The cartons are then ejected from the forming heads via gravity and air cylinders onto conveyors below. Each head discharges its carton onto an independent conveyor lane; each lane leads to a separate Model 36 high-speed hf/f/s machine from Cloud.
While the carton former is setting up the cartons, the three Cloud machines are creating sachets of product from a preprinted web of film supplied by American Packaging Corp. (www.ampkcorp.com). Each sachet holds 0.123 oz of Truvia, which is delivered to the machines using Cloud's custom two-phase product-feed system. With this system, Truvia is discharged from a bulk bag into a surge hopper. A screw conveyor then elevates the product to the desired height and discharges it through a three-way diverter valve. Three separate screw conveyors then carry the product from each discharge point to feed the three hf/f/s machines. After the filled, sealed film web is cut into individual packets, the sachets are transferred to a filling head. Waiting below are the empty, formed cartons, held in position under the filler via a pneumatic stop.
Once they are filled with the appropriate number of sachets, the cartons are released to the conveyor and are diverted into a single lane for transport to a checkweigher. The next step is carton closing on the Kapstone machine. After being closed and laser-coded, the cartons are conveyed through a metal detector. They are then automatically grouped and hand-packed into a case, which is taped, coded, and palletized.
According to Werner, each machine requires specific, yet relatively simple, adjustments for changeover. “The changeover on our pouch machines for the different counts is the flip of a switch,” he says. “The carton former has four major change parts for each carton size and a couple of hand-crank adjustments for carton-width changes. The conveyor system requires guide-rail setting changes for each carton.”
Sweet success is anticipated
Combining the three-up carton former, the three high-speed pouching machines, and the redesigned carton closer, Cloud's new packaging line is on its way to meeting Cargill's 2008 production goals, producing 3,000 pouches/min (1,000 pouches/min/lane). But if Cargill's predictions for the growth of its new, natural sweetener are on target, Cloud will have a need for even greater speed in the year to come.
“Cloud is continuing to work with Cargill to determine how this existing line, coupled with a new Cloud Performa™ SP pouch maker, can meet their longer-term demand, once the product takes off in 2009 and beyond,” relates Werner. “The new machine will be capable of producing up to 4,000 pouches per minute.”
After Truvia's initial launch last July in select supermarkets in New York City, it is now available in retail stores nationwide, with a “very positive reaction so far,” according to Tucker. So hopes run high that the success of Truvia will be sweet indeed.
By Anne Marie Mohan, Senior Editor