Packaging Equipment for Maple Syrups

Packaging Equipment for Maple Syrup

The maple syrup industry has made headlines in late 2013 and early 2014 for a couple of different reasons.  The first is the damage done to a number of trees in the Vermont area following some recent ice storms.  The producers and packagers of maple syrup in that area continue to asses the damage as we move into the new year and the extent may not be known for some time.  On the other side, and perhaps not quite as widely known, Michigan appears to be poised to enter the maple syrup market in the near future.  Studies are being done on the feasibility of expanding the market in a state where less than 1% of a large population of sugar trees are actually being used to produce and bottle syrup.  As packaging machine manufacturers, building equipment for maple syrup presents a couple unique challenges across the industry and every now and then a surprise from individual packagers.


As with any food product, almost every packaging line for maple syrup will include some type of container cleaning equipment, normally bottle rinsers.  These machines are put in production to ensure that the bottles are free from contamination prior to the introduction of the syrup itself.  Bottle rinsers may use air or water to clean the inside of the container, and in some cases may even use a vacuum cycle to remove debris to a waste reservoir.  The type of container cleaning equipment used may actually vary quite a bit from bottler to bottler, simply due to the type of container used by the individual syrup producer.
More than many other industries, there is a wide variation in container types and shapes when it comes to maple syrup.  For instance, most bottled water will come in a sixteen ounce clear plastic bottle.  While there may be a little variation in size or shape, most people would immediately recognize a bottle of water, regardless of brand.  Maple syrup containers, however, may take the form of a cabin, a leaf, or even a person, to name a few!  The variation in bottle size, shape and material can lead to modifications to standard rinsing machines. 


As we have mentioned before, overflow fillers are normally used for thin, free-flowing products, like water.  Maple syrup is not the first item to come to mind when thinking low viscosity or free-flowing.  However, the product is one of the exceptions to the general rule.  Most maple syrups will be warmed to go through the filling process.  Heating the product tends to lower the viscosity, allowing the overflow filling machine to handle syrups.  While other options are available, the fill to level offered by the overflow filler works well with a product where temperature changes can lead to changes in viscosity.  


As noted above, container sizes, shapes and materials vary widely for maple syrup products.  Different types of containers will also use different types of caps, which means almost all capping machines may be used in the industry.  However, most maple syrup bottles will use a screw on type cap, making the spindle capper one of the most popular machines for sealing syrup bottles.  Spindle capping machines allow for continuous capping by using a delivery system that allows each bottle to strip a cap just before it is tightened on the bottle.  Screw on type caps can include simple flat caps, flip top caps, taller, extended caps and many other variations.  
Of course, each and every packaging system will be custom designed and built to the specific project at hand.  As we move into 2014, we look forward to working with our current maple syrup partners as well as making some new friends in the industry!