Tofu attractively packaged

Thanks to its R 145 thermoforming packaging machine, the family business Saigon Marked can systematically expand its product range and virtually triple the shelf life of its tofu products.

Protein-rich tofu, which originally comes from Asia, is a basic product for many vegetarians and vegans. It is enjoying increasing popularity throughout the world, even with meat lovers. Denmark is no exception.

It is in Odense, where Saigon Marked was founded in 1996 as a small retail company, that the business now employs seven staff. The new trend, which gradually captured the domestic market, promised a great deal and it was for this reason, Saigon Marked began tofu production in the summer of 2013. “Putting our tofu production into operation was initially made more difficult for us by the fact, that we had problems at first obtaining the required approval as a food-producing company,” explains Phuoc Dam, Production Manager at Saigon Marked. “Approval was granted in October 2013.”

At the start the company used semi-automatic traysealers, which the company founders had obtained from Taiwan, to pack its products. The machines quickly proved to be inadequate, since the limit of their capacity in packing the products was reached very quickly. It was then high time to look around for a professional packaging solution capable of handling the present and future requirements. The company became aware of MULTIVAC at Anuga FoodService 2013 in Cologne. As Phuoc Dam says: “We simply did not have, at that time, any know-how about the whole packaging procedure. We were therefore not just looking for a packaging solution which could achieve higher production figures and would be perfectly tailored to our needs. We were mainly interested in comprehensive advice and technical support.”

After visiting the trade fair, Saigon Marked contacted MULTIVAC Denmark. Various tests were subsequently carried out by the packaging specialists in Vejle, since it was particularly important for Saigon Marked to have the opportunity of a realistic sample production. A R 145 thermoforming packaging machine was then ordered at the beginning of 2014. The new packaging solution has not only enabled capacity to be increased over that of the traysealers used previously, but it also offers greater flexibility as regards the different pack formats.

The compact thermoforming packaging machine, capable of being completely washed down, is specially designed for small and medium-sized batches, and it offers maximum ease of operation. The open IPC control system enables equipment such as handling modules, slicers, multihead weighers, quality inspection systems or labellers like the BASELINE L 300 conveyor belt labeller from MULTIVAC Marking & Inspection, which is installed at Saigon Marked, to be integrated into the machine control. This labeller offers the small family business a low-cost, entry-level model in the low to medium output range for simple labelling tasks to the top and bottom of packs or over the edge of the pack.

BASELINE L 300 conveyor belt labeller

Label dispenser                              < 2
Label position                                 Top / bottom / over the edge 
Label backing strip width (mm)       150
Conveyor belt speed (m/min)         < 40

*Depending on the equipment

The easily perishable tofu is packed in modified atmosphere (MAP). Special impermeable films, together with a process of evacuation, gas flushing and hermetic sealing, ensure the product is ideally protected in the pack. This means that its shelf life, which was originally around one week, has been extended significantly to three or almost four weeks.

Everyone in the company in Odense is very happy with the entire packaging solution, even though “we first had to acquire the specific knowledge about the packaging machine with all its possibilities, and then integrate this into our daily routine,” says Phuoc Dam.

All the hard work paid off: the R 145 has fulfilled all expectations and is perfectly matched to the product range and packaging procedure of Saigon Marked. Thanks to its capacity for modular extension, the machine is very flexible in its use and ensures a high level of efficiency - including rapid format changes. The staff of the family business are also delighted with the quality of advice and service offered by MULTIVAC. 

The attractive packs have been particularly well received by customers. “We have even been asked, whether we import the products,” says the production boss with a smile. “People did not think us capable of it. But we can confirm with pride, the products are actually produced and professionally packed here by us.”

The use of the R 145 is constantly being expanded. In March 2015 the company started for the first time with the production of Mylar® COOK packs, since these films can also be used simply and reliably on MULTIVAC’s thermoforming packaging machines. This process enables the packaged protein-rich tofu products to be stored either chilled or frozen, and then cooked in the sealed pack in either the oven or the microwave. The vacuum packaging prevents freezer burn, while the moisture and quality of the product, as well as its aromas, are retained during cooking. When a defined pressure is reached, the pack opens automatically in the oven, and the browning process then starts on the colourless tofu.

Phuoc Dam is particularly pleased that higher production quantities than expected have been achieved with the R 145: “Our production process is significantly more efficient than previously. This opens up new sales opportunities for us, and we can also continually expand our product range.” Saigon Marked will soon begin be using Mylar® COOK for meat dishes as well. The appropriate tests have just been carried out.

R 145 thermoforming packaging machine*

Cut-off length (mm)        < 500
Forming depth (mm)      < 130
Output (cycles/min)        < 12
Hygiene standard           MULTIVAC Hygienic Design™

*Depending on the equipment