“Use By” Date Coding on Pre- Prepackaged Meals

In recent years, pre-packaged meals have received bad press for those who are seeking a healthier lifestyle and who are turning their attention toward off-the-shelf choices. Manufacturers understand this and have been making their foods with healthier ingredients, lower sodium, fewer preservatives and in increasingly smaller packaging.

The reason these meals remain popular is because of the hectic lifestyle that families and working individuals are faced with. Whether they’re buying their pre-packaged meals from the freezer or refrigerator section, the packaging remains a high priority to the manufacturer.Date Coding

Griffin-Rutgers shares that these pre-packaged meals need to have “use by dates” bar codes and traceability codes. The printing of these codes need to be done on both the plastic container and in some cases the cardboard wrap-around sleeves. This can pose a unique set of challenges on the manufacturing and production floor.

Automated sleeving machines are ideal until it comes to the time to apply the traceability or use-by date codes. In order to have the codes print correctly it’s crucial that the sleeves do not shift during its movement down the assembly and packing line. Griffin-Rutgers printing professionals recognize that there are multiple solutions. One solution is to code the sleeves offline, bring them to the line printed then automate the actual “sleeving” of the plastic container.

An offline coding system works best for this process and also offers other benefits, including:

  1. Reduced downtime to change from one product to another
  2. Enhanced flexibility to print on off-sized packaging and the ability to stack items for printing on more than one area
  3. Throughput increases because of a move away from manual systems.
  4. Offline coding enhances positional accuracy and could potentially increase line speeds.

A second solution is the printing of the required information in-line. This can be done by thermal ink jets (TIJ”s), continuous ink jets (CIJ’s), lasers and, at times, thermal transfer systems. If you’re faced with printing “use by” codes, track and trace or other information on your products, Griffin Rutgers can help you identify the best system for your business.

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