SEALPAC allows fully automated packaging of gourmet salads in recloseable EasyLid® trays

sealpacCovering an area of approximately 10,000 square meters in the small town of Kankaanpää,about three hours by car from Helsinki in the southwest of Finland, family companyHuhtahyvät processes and packs premium meats, meat jellies (aspic) and gourmet saladson a number of recently installed lines. Located in a former shoe factory, as Kankaanpääused to be the main area for manufacturing and exporting shoes to the Soviet Union until itcollapsed in 1991, we spoke with Antti Vilska, Project Manager at Huhtahyvät, about thecompany’s latest solutions installed together with SEALPAC.

True family company
Huhtahyvät was officially founded in 1988. As Antti Vilska explains: “My grandfather anduncle started the company with initial focus on the manufacturing of meat and meat jellies. Originally we only processed larger pieces of meat that would be further processed at retail. Then we became the first company in Finland to supply pre-sliced meat to the retailers. In2008, we added a range of gourmet salads to our portfolio. Nowadays, depending on theseason, we have 70 to 80 people working in our factory.” But with Antti’s uncle, mother, brothers and fiancée all involved in the daily business of Huhtahyvät, it is clear that this isstill a true family company.


With a background in food engineering, and involved in the company since he got asummer job there at the age of 15, Antti Vilska now has a fundamental position as ProjectManager, making him responsible for, among other things, packaging developments andnew purchases of equipment. Vilska: “In 2014 we made a number of investments to supportthe growth of our company. First, we replaced the production line of our salads. Then weextended the sliced meat factory and installed a complete new production line, mainly forsalami. With this, we doubled our capacity for this type of product.”

Focus on quality
Where the meat industry in Finland is dominated by a small number of large players,Huhtahyvät differentiates itself by offering high-quality products with maximum flexibility. Vilska: “Due to the compact size and flat management structure of our company, we can beflexible and cost-efficient for our customers. If they want to test new products or packagingsystems, this is something we can easily arrange. In fact, this was the reason why wepurchased the SEALPAC A5 traysealer for our salad line, as we knew we could easilyadapt it to changes in the production in the future, be it a different tray format or even atotally different product.” The strong focus on quality is also expressed in the FSSC 22000certification, for which Huhtahyvät recently passed the annual audit.

New production line for premium salads
In order to distinguish the company even more from competition, Huhtahyvät offers a rangeof gourmet salads, based on for example potato, shrimp or salmon. These mayonnaisebased salads were originally packed in a tray with metal seal and additional snap-on lid,produced on a rotary machine. This was until Huhtahyvät decided in 2014 to set up acomplete new production line. For that, they turned to Orat Oy, distributor of various typesof processing and packaging equipment in Finland, who designed the optimal process. Nowadays, after denesting the trays onto the in-feed conveyor, the product is smoothlyloaded by means of a Leonhardt TGs2 filling system with two dosing heads, andconsequently sealed on the SEALPAC A5 traysealer. The sealed trays then pass throughAnritsu metal detection, after which they are labelled with an ELS bottom labeller. Last butnot least, a Domino coding system prints the production and shelf life date on the top film.

Not only did Huhtahyvät set up a complete new line, they also replaced their existingpackaging system with the highly sustainable EasyLid® solution. This system uses special EasyLid® trays, produced by Naber Plastics (NL), which have a common sealing edge aswell as an additional ring. A peelable seal is applied to the common sealing edge whereasthe additional ring is hermetically sealed in the same process. When opening the tray forthe first time, the lid function is automatically created and allows for multiple recloseability.

EasyLid® - both sustainable and cost-efficient
Vilska: “Due to the complete elimination of the snap-on lid that we used to apply to oursalad trays, the EasyLid® system offers huge savings in consumables. We were also quite happy to get rid of the metal seal in our production. Furthermore, with the new line re-fillingof trays no longer is a continuous job, like it was for one operator at the rotary machine. Asa producer, we are now able to pack our salads at a lower cost and with less personnel.”

For retailers, the EasyLid® system offers an opportunity to build a sustainable image. This issomething that is slowly coming to Finland, also supported by a recent law that holds foodmanufacturers responsible for the disposal of any materials used for packaging theirproducts. As such, each manufacturer has to report the amount of waste (plastics, glass,metal, etc.) used on an annual basis, and is then charged a price per kg. Vilska: ”There aretoo many over-packed products on the Finnish market, so we are happy to contribute to amore sustainable environment whilst reducing our production costs.”

A striking presentation at retail
Huhtahyvät’s focus on premium quality is reflected in the unique tray design, for example byadding an in-mould label to the tray. This label forms an integrated part of the injectionmoulded tray, hence offering excellent branding opportunities. Combined with a printed topfilm, it is impossible to miss these salads on the retail shelves. The rectangular design ofthe tray, which holds 300g of product, allows for easy stacking. To improve therecloseability of the tray, Naber Plastics changed the design of the tray several times.

Vilska: “They even visited us in Finland, which is quite uncommon for a tray manufacturer,but which made us believe we were jointly working on the best solution. With the PP tray,we clearly have an improved product presentation compared to the thermoformed tray thatwe used before.”

Vilska continues: “For one of our customers, a large retailer, it was important that the topfilm would have no sharp edges. Here, SEALPAC strongly supported us with its InsideCutsystem, where the film is cut before sealing, so that no film is lying over the sealing edge.

SEALPAC was even willing to sign a guarantee for the result. Tray supplier Naber Plasticsalso did its part, by designing the tray with a slightly wider sealing edge. The ability toprovide this kind of custom-made solution is what separates such suppliers from the mass.”

Turn-key project
Orat Oy supplied the line as a turn-key project, making sure that all critical steps in theprocess were addressed before delivering the new equipment. Vilska: “We know Orat Oyfor a long time already. They always support us in making our production more efficient,and immediately address any issues that we raise. We strongly value the support of theirmaintenance engineer, and see that they are truly interested in what is happening in ourfactory.”

Huhtahyvät is a long-time SEALPAC customer, still actively using a SEALPAC RE25thermoformer, bought in 2005, for packaging sliced meat. Vilska: “With that experience, wealready knew that SEALPAC offers excellent quality for money. Nevertheless, for theEasyLid® project, we visited the SEALPAC factory in Oldenburg, Germany. Next to thecleanliness and well-structured factory, we were struck by the owner’s commitment toensuring fast supply of spare parts, as we could see in SEALPAC’s huge warehouse.

Looking at the recently installed traysealer, we can see that it is quite easy to operate. Furthermore, as we clean the tooling every day, we also highly value the easy removal ofthe tooling with SEALPAC’s trolley and rack. Our production manager does not even haveto be present for that!”

Sliced meat production at highest output
SEALPAC was also the preferred supplier for the packaging equipment in the salamifactory, where the production of the logs takes place fully automatic with equipment fromMarel and Tipper Tie. These logs are then stored in the maturation room, spend a week inthe smoke house, after which they are ready to be sliced. The new packaging line consistsof a CFS slicing unit with check weighing and automatic loading into the SEALPAC RE25thermoformer. The integrated ELS labelling equipment provides both a top and bottom labelto each pack. Vilska: “Our main application is vacuum packaging, but we see a clear growthof rigid film modified atmosphere packaging. These days, we package around 35 tonnes ofsalami at highest output each week.”

Huhtahyvät focuses on sliced meat packs with a consumer amount for several days, mostlyin the range between 100g and 400g. For this, they apply a recloseable film. Each pack hasa hanger hole for vertical presentation at retail, which is the common way of presentingsuch products in Finland. It allows for space-saving presentation, while consumers have anexcellent view of the contents of the pack. Huhtahyvät’s sliced meat packs can be found atall major retailers across Finland.

The only way is up
With Huhtahyvät’s recent investments, focus now is on increasing the sales of the newproduct portfolio, especially the salads in EasyLid® trays. The first signs are extremely positive, as Vilska elaborates: “Since we moved to the EasyLid® tray, our best-selling product, the salmon salad, increased over 15% in sales. And already now, in peak periodswe are packaging 11,000 trays of salads per shift. Nevertheless, we will keep our eyesopen for new opportunities every day.”

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