FOOD SAFETY AND PACKAGING
Making food last longer
How can technology support food production?
Food is one of the most traded commodities in the world. With the globalization of markets and an increasing global population, the food supply chain will continue to grow in scale and complexity. This has a significant impact on the production as well as the distribution of food products. Compliance with food production quality standards is more essential than ever. Every year, one in ten people suffers from food-borne illness or injury, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 420’000 people die each year as a result of poor food hygiene. The packaging industry has an important role to play in extending the shelf life of food products and making them less susceptible to interruptions in logistics chains, such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facts about food safety and packaging
According to the EU Plastics Strategy, all packaging should be able to be recycled or reused in an economically viable manner by 2030.
Global food sales will amount to around EUR 7.75 trillion in 2022. In 2027, the market volume is expected to reach EUR 10.23 trillion. This corresponds to annual sales growth of 5.72%.
An estimated amount of more than 930 million tonnes of food per year are thrown away. Active packaging systems enable food to be transported over longer distances while helping to minimize losses and waste associated with food spoilage.
France has banned the use of plastic packaging for around 30 fruit and vegetables starting in 2022. In 2021, around 37% of fruit and vegetables in France were sold in plastic packaging.
Sources: European Commission, Statista, United Nations, Reuters
EDM technology for new materials
GF Machining Solutions and Berhalter
GF Machining Solutions supports Swiss-based Berhalter in producing cost-efficient packaging with new materials.
In 2022, the global food market generated sales of almost EUR 7.75 trillion, with a strong upward trend. The EUR 10 trillion mark is expected to be exceeded in just five years. The food production and processing is booming, but according to the Food Index Report 2021 of the United Nations (UN), more than 900 million tonnes of food go to waste every year. The production and transport of food still puts a strain on resources such as energy and water, as well as land, where fertilizers and pesticides are used.
Food manufacturers and producers, together with the packaging industry, are developing new technologies and smarter food packaging solutions that make food last longer or make it less susceptible to disruptions in logistics chains. GF Machining Solutions works closely with customers in the packaging industry. Packaging, together with Food and Beverage, is one of the division's five key segments, and GF estimates the global market size for machine tools for packaging production at approximately USD 1.5 billion.
For its customers in this market, GF Machining Solutions develops solutions in the areas of laser texturing, milling, EDM and additive manufacturing, as well as automation and software. GF Machining Solutions thus provides the technology to produce ultra-precise cutting dies and molds for plastic, aluminum, paper and combinations of multiple materials. The GF division enables packaging manufacturers to break new ground in an energy-efficient way.
Berhalter has been successful in the packaging industry for decades. The Swiss company, based in the Rhine valley in Widnau (Switzerland), uses a total of five GF wire-cutting EDM to process punches and dies for cutting out materials like plastic lids for food packaging.
GF expert's view
How does GF enable its customers to take greater responsibility for reducing food waste?
We enable our customers in the packaging business to cut innovative materials with a high level of precision. This makes it possible to preserve food for longer. The tighter the tolerances, for example, in the closure of a lid, the better the content of the container is protected – therefore prolonging the shelf life of perishable goods. The precision of our CUT X series, for example, is achieved through a combination of optimized mechanics, new 3D-printed heads design or AI-based thermal management.
Why is GF Machining Solutions an ideal partner for helping Berhalter make its production more sustainable?
GF and Berhalter are both passionate about providing customers with high-precision and energy-efficient machining solutions. With our durable and precise machines and materials, we help Berhalter extend the lifetime of its punch and die tools, reduce the scrap rate of material and lower the wear of EDM wire, for example. This in turn enables Berhalter to reduce waste, energy consumption and emissions to a minimum during its production process.
How has GF Machining Solutions' R&D contributed to the success of the collaboration?
We listen to their needs carefully; which is why we know Berhalter's processes very well. Listening is part of our Design Thinking approach, which helps us to continuously make improvements so that we meet the needs of Berhalter.
"We want to put our customers in a leading position. This requires the right machines. GF Machining Solutions offers cutting-edge solutions regarding energy efficiency and precision."
Patrick Berhalter, CEO Berhalter AG
GF's wire-cutting EDM technology enables Berhalter to machine composite materials, which make food and beverages last longer. Composite materials generally have a high strength-to-weight ratio, and can therefore be used to manufacture strong and efficient packaging. In addition, composites provide a high barrier to moisture, oxygen, microbes and light.
Several trends are emerging in the packaging industry. First, the sector wants to help tackle food waste through shelf-life-extending packaging. It is also promoting a shift toward recycled packaging and expanding the production of biodegradable or compostable alternatives to plastics. Reducing plastic and increasing the effectiveness of packaging requires high precision and accuracy in the manufacturing process, which should consume as little energy as possible. Together with Berhalter and other customers, GF Machining Solutions will continue to develop innovative solutions in this field.
Hot wire for new lids: How does it work?
New composite materials can be used to manufacture strong and efficient packaging that makes food and beverages last longer. When cutting or punching a yogurt lid, for example, precision is essential. The tighter the tolerances in a lid's closure, the better the content of the cup is protected. Wire-cutting EDM technology is ideal for filigree cuts. It uses a metallic wire (electrode) to cut a programmed contour in a workpiece. This infographic shows how it works.
Read about GF's other projects focusing on food safety and packaging
Champinter, a mushroom production and processing cooperative in Villamalea (Spain), needed a new piping system to cool the pasteurization and production processes at its facility. The GF Piping Systems team opted for the COOL-FIT 2.0 and 4.0 system to meet the exact demands of mushroom cultivation. Different stages of the growing process require precise conditions ranging from 15°–55°C, with 85–95% humidity and no condensation build-up. The COOL-FIT system not only meets all the technical requirements for stable growing conditions, it is also 50% more efficient than the old piping system.
Read more about COOL-FIT 4.0, which is designed for use in commercial and industrial refrigeration installations.
Custom Etch is the largest laser texturing service provider in North America. The company, based in New Castle PA (US), processes more than 4’000 molds every year. It discovered laser texturing more than ten years ago, when faced with the challenge of applying a geometric-style texture to PET bottles for a leading global beverage company. Environmentally friendly Laser technology from GF Machining Solutions enables Custom Etch to process molds without applying chemical etching.
Discover GF Machining Solutions' Laser technology.
Our contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Through its collaboration with Berhalter, GF Machining Solutions contributes to the achievement of:
UN SDG 7:
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
UN SDG 12:
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Learn more about GF and its contribution to the UN SDGs in the GF Sustainability Report.