Celestial conducts new package design with unique induction sealing

Hain Celestial Group has had recent success, including its Celestial Seasonings tea products' 6-percent growth. Contributing to that success, says Matt Sungy, associate product manager, are new products with premium packaging introduced last May: TeaHouse Latte and TeaHouse Chai.

A key element to this new package is the induction seal which preserves product freshness and provides tamper evidence. The container is a unique fit for induction sealing because it breaks three general rules most induction sealers require: The shape is rectangular not round, the cap and container are metal, and the seal is done without a cap. In addition to other benefits, induction sealing is cheaper to operate, easier to maintain and takes up less floor space.

Matt Sungy credits the teamwork of all involved in the process to make the package rollout a success. All of the suppliers were, "collaborating to bring the package to life," he says. The machine has enabled Celestial Seasonings to add another distinct package to its extensive line of products.

Celestial Seasoning's TeaHouse Lattes are creamy, indulgent, tea-based mixes designed to satisfy tea and coffee drinkers alike. With less than half the caffeine of coffee, they are a low-calorie, fat-free treat when prepared with 2-percent skim milk or water.

The powdered mixes are packaged in beautiful, collectible, environmentally-friendly tin cans that are made from 100-percent post-consumer material that is recyclable. However, the collectible tins posed a packaging challenge. Hain Celestial designed the tins to incorporate a seal to preserve freshness and provide tamper evidence, but conduction sealing was not an option because the manufacturing tolerances on the can rims were not within the range a conduction sealer could accommodate (conduction systems will only seal successfully with direct contact across the entire container opening). Hain Celestial looked into induction, but according to Sungy, it wasn't an option for the custom, premium tin Hain wanted. This misperception was soon changed, but solving this problem required a cooperative, innovative solution from Enercon, which supplied an induction sealing head and a power supply, as well as induction foil supplier Selig Sealing Products, M&S Automated Feeding Systems, which provided product handling, foil cutting, and sealing-component integration, and contract packager, Power Packaging.

According to Power Packaging sales manager Dale Rodeghro, working with Hain to develop a solution fit into Power Packaging's expertise. "We take customers where they want to go. In this case, we had induction sealing experience, but nobody had ever tried to induction seal a container like this one before," he says.

According to Enercon's regional sales manager, Al Szukalski, "The application provided several challenges. The first being that the seal was not round or oval. The eddy currents produced by induction travel in a circular motion. Step one was to confirm that our engineering group could design a custom sealing head that could force those currents to travel with enough intensity to the corners of the seal. They engineered a proprietary sealing head design that could not only seal it, but do it in less than one second."

There were two additional challenges with the Hain lid. First it was a metal cap. Induction would cause it to heat up during the induction process. Second, the lid was a snap-on version and could not be relied on to hold the seal in place. Another method of holding the seal in place was required. Szukalski says, "Enercon has a long history of sealing capless containers with tabletop systems using pneumatics to hold the seal in place during sealing, so the next required element was container and seal handling."

Bottle and seal handling

That's where M&S Automated Feeding Systems brought its expertise into the project. President and owner Mark Grinager says his company is used to working on unique projects such as this one, and he takes great pride in his team's ability to work fluidly with multiple suppliers. The company designs and builds feeding systems for all types of packaging projects. In this case, it custom-engineered a machine to handle the tins, feed and cut the seals from a roll of foil and integrate the Enercon sealing heads into one process.

Tins enter the machine via a feedscrew and are sealed by one of two sealing stations. Each sealing station features two Enercon sealing heads, which are powered by two Enercon power supplies. The two sealing heads are mounted in a manner that allows them to pivot so that, while one is sealing, the other is picking up a foil seal. The foil seals are cut from a roll of foil supplied by Selig Sealing Products.

M&S developed the roll-handling and cutting mechanism, which allows the Enercon sealing head to pick up a seal. Selig supplies preprinted supported rolls of foil for the application. The liner features Selig's universal heat-seal layers, and Selig developed a low-melt heat-seal coating on the foil to allow sealing onto the tin. When sealing is completed at each station, the heads that have picked up the seals pivot into position and are pneumatically lowered onto the next pair of tins for sealing.

The new package overcomes three induction sealing obstacles; it's non-round, metal and sealed without a cap.