Renfro Foods is a family-operated business experiencing tremendous growth. Since being named Vendor of the Year by Wingstop Restaurants, Inc., the Fort Worth, Texas company has pushed the capabilities of its packaging equipment to satisfy growing demand for their zesty sauces, salsas and relishes.
The company first invested in induction cap sealing in 1995, when it purchased a Compak Jr.™ portable tabletop machine from Enercon to seal salsa containers it copacks in slant-handled jugs with 63mm caps. Renfro Foods evaluated several equipment brands at the time and identified Enercon as a market leader, says company president Doug Renfro. With help from Enercon's local equipment distributor representative R.P. Anderson Co., which offered a great deal of local expertise, Renfro Foods was able to conduct sealing demonstrations with the Compak Jr.™, which "sealed the deal." The self-contained sealer proved to be a powerhouse. Soon, it was pulled into service, sealing entire truckloads of product.
Renfro Foods started induction sealing its containers for a couple of reasons, Doug Renfro says. "Many of our foodservice customers began to refuse accepting glass containers and the freight/shipping costs are lower on plastic because it's lighter. Our finished product in a plastic container averages about thirty-eight pounds gross per case, versus forty-eight pounds in glass."
At first, the company put the Compak Jr. induction sealer into service as a stand-alone machine for short production runs to provide tamper evidence and to seal in product freshness. Over the next several years, foodservice product demand grew and the production runs became longer and longer.
Says Doug Renfro, "We used the machine for all of our volume on foodservice, which had reached regular, truckload-sized orders. We laughed when we saw Enercon's description of the Compak Jr.™. It was designed for laboratory use and short production runs. But we can attest, it's a production workhorse. We started sealing truckloads of containers with it."
Induction sealing became such an integral part of the foodservice packaging business that the company invested in a second Compak Jr.™ in 2004, as a backup to the primary machine.
While the Compak Jr.™ machines kept up with the faster pace, at the time, Wingstop, one of Renfro Foods' primary foodservice customers, was expanding its product distribution into 25 states.
Renfro Foods saw that a fully automated induction sealer was needed on that bottling line to minimize some of the labor-intensive tasks. They added the fully automatic Super Seal—its third induction cap sealer—within the past year. The unit was integrated into the line to run both foodservice and retail products.
An air-cooled system, the Super Seal operates via a dedicated microprocessor and a controller. With an allin- one, quick-change sealing head that pivots to allow for sealing bottles and jars with different closure diameters, it features a waterless design and an adjustable "Loss of Seal" indicator that allows users to preset the power level and trigger an indicator such as a stack light, if the sealer output power dips below the preset level.
"With the Compak Jr.™, we could seal five units or gallons per minute," adds Doug Renfro. "The Super Seal™ can seal nine containers per minute. That really improved our line speeds and combined with the labor savings we see from automated sealing—it's great." Doug Renfro says the company is quite pleased with both the Super Seal™ machine and the fact that it's fully automatic. The Compak Jr.™ machines are currently used as backups. "Today we use them to seal bottles of our barbecue sauce, a dozen different salsas and several relishes," he tells PD.
When asked if the company has experienced a return on its inductionsealing equipment investment, Doug Renfro replies, "Here we're pretty informal. We don't calculate ROIs. The Super Seal™ saved us a significant amount in labor costs, so we're happy. Should the foodservice business expand much further, perhaps we will add another shift. The sealers can take it."
The company can now concentrate on watching the condiment/sauce trends in upscale restaurants, knowing that within a short time, the trendy flavors there will make their way into consumer households across the country. Next on its product-development menu? Mango Habanera Salsa.
Originally appeared in: eNews: Induction Sealing Technology 4th Quarter 2006