As consumer preferences toward more healthy options continues to rise, the seafood industry is embracing vacuum skin package (VSP) as a preferred style to better present products such as salmon, cod, tilapia and halibut with retailers. VSP creates an attractive method to package fish as it drapes a thin layer of plastic film over the product, providing consumers a clear view of the product.
Bornstein Seafoods is a believer in vacuum skin packaging as well. The Bellingham, Washington-based company was seeing new business opportunities for vacuum skin packaging its products within its retail and direct-to-consumer markets. The only problem was its two existing VSP machines had reached their capacity; the company was turning away business.
Founded in 1934, Bornstein Seafoods is a family-owned business that operates processing and buying stations stretching from the southeast coast of Alaska, through Canada, Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Today, the company is on its third generation of family ownership (Kyle, Colin, and Andrew Bornstein), and together they continue working toward fulfilling the company’s original initiatives of quality, productivity, professionalism, and teamwork with staff, fishing partners, and customers.
“Shifting a lot of our processing power to our facilities in Oregon opened up our plant in Bellingham to do more value-add to our products, such as marinades, portioning and other small volume sales,” said Jake Knutzen, program sales at Bornstein Seafoods. “We have two vacuum pack machines here already, but we pretty much tapped the capacity on them. We needed a new option.”
That option proved to be the ReeForm T55 Thermoformer from Reepack. The T55 is a high-performance machine that is engineered to be flexible to accommodate a wide variety of seafood packaging options. Ossid has been the North American master distributor of Reepack since 2019.
The path to Reepack began on a recommendation from Frontier Packaging, a Tukwila, Washington, based manufacturer and distributor of packaging materials exclusively for the seafood industry.
To meet both immediate and long-term needs, Bornstein Seafoods outlined several must-haves for its new thermoformer. Leading the list was running 10K OTR film, a highly permeable material that is FDA approved for packaging fresh fish. 10K film makes seafood more hygienic by creating an oxygen-permeable barrier while keeping seepage out of the product. Other qualifications included a small footprint to fit in their existing space and the flexibility to run multiple packaging styles.
“The ReeForm T55 is a game-changer for Bornstein because it gives them great flexibility to be able to run three different styles of packages on the same machine and do so very efficiently,” said Brian Guillaume, regional sales manager, Ossid. “This is something their other two machines cannot do.
“The T55 is a larger format machine, compact to fit in their existing space, while matching the output speed of their other two machines combined. What this flexibility and speed really does is set up Bornstein nicely for future growth.”
The T55 features a stainless steel robust frame and open panels for easy access to all internal components. It can run semi-rigid and flexible packaging with a fast, easy changeover. Both the length and width of the machine’s infeed can be adjusted to meet specific customer specifications; it can accommodate flexible and rigid film with a thickness up to 900 microns and a film width up to 620 mm, tray forming depth up to 150 mm, and a maximum cut-off up to 700 mm.
Knutzen said installation of the machine in spring 2022 was smooth. Ossid has regional service technicians located across the country, including the Seattle area, to provide prompt onsite service support when needed.
Bornstein Seafoods operates its new theromoformer about 10 hours a day, six to seven days a week, packaging between 9,000 to 10,000 pounds of fish per day. As orders increase, the machine is expected to operate two shifts daily.
“Since going with Reepack we’ve basically doubled our production by one machine,” Knutzen said. “We have no complaints on the mechanical side; customer service has been top notch. Ossid has been very transparent from the beginning. Vacuum skin packaging is the next wave in seafood packaging. A lot of retailers are asking for it because it extends shelf life and keeps bacteria counts low. To be able to double our supply that we can offer to our customers really puts us in a good position moving forward.”
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