The longtime Miller Lite beer motto can be applied (with a slight stretch) to form-fill-seal (FFS) machines, as consumer preferences and demographics dictate smaller packages for retail.
Consumers worried about their weight are choosing smaller portions, and portion-control packaging is an even better weapon in that battle. Plus, demographics in general are trending toward smaller "family" units, with more single people or empty-nest baby boomers.
"Smaller portion sizes are driving a lot of our projects lately," says Mark Young, Southeast sales director for Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, Wash. "It's all about personal servings, not 16- or even 8-oz. family-sized portions anymore."
"As people grow more health-conscious and convenience-driven, consumers require smaller bags of healthier treats that can easily fit into their bags while on the go," adds Michael Green, managing director of TNA, an Australia-based but global supplier of packaging systems.
"Therefore, maintaining ambitious throughput targets and ensuring optimum productivity are of the utmost importance to food manufacturers -- particularly when it comes to combining great value with high quality products.
"Using a packaging system that can bag goods efficiently and at high speeds is pivotal in achieving these aims," Green continues.
"Ongoing innovation in this area means that [vertical form-fill-seal] packaging machines have evolved from bagging speeds of 60 bags per minute to over 200."
It's happening in both vertical and horizontal form-fill-seal.
Which is not to say larger sizes have gone the way of Bob Uecker's Miller Lite commercials. The ideal situation is a machine that has the flexibility to produce different size packages with minimal time and effort at changeovers.
"Many of the [original] machines are dedicated machines, meaning their only produce one package format," notes a spokesman for Reiser & Co., Canton, Mass. He points to the new Bacon Packaging System, which uses a base Repak form/fill/seal machine that is outfitted at Reiser for bacon packaging applications.
"It can make any size or shape package they want. Customers can make 8-oz., 12-oz., 16-oz. or 32-oz., retail, bulk, standup or stack packages and more, all on one machine," he says. "And if the bacon business dries up and the packager decides to get into, let’s say, steak, the same Repak can package those steaks."
At last year's Pack Expo, Ossid, a Rocky Mount, N.C., division of Pro Mach, introduced what it called the company's most advanced thermo FFS machine. The 8000S is a horizontally oriented machine for medium- to high-production environments, capable of producing a host of different package types, including flexible, foil-foil, semi-rigid, rigid, ambient, vacuum, modified atmosphere and reclosable.
That trend is driving the design for new machines as well as retrofits for existing ones, which have been producing the larger-size packages for a generation.
"In 2012 we sold a poultry processor a machine to do a six-up club store package – putting marinade in portion with a six-piston filling machine," continues Young of Hinds-Bock. "Last week they called, said that product's dead, but can they use the same machine for a 12-up package. We're going to rebuild the machine to do that."
For raw speed in really small packaging, Oystar's new Hassia FFS Machine P300 is a form-fill-seal platform for the production of portion packs. It can manufacture and fill up to 63,000 small to medium-sized portion cups per hour and comes equipped with an integrated case packing system.