Typical Packaging Solutions for Maple Syrup
Maple syrup has some characteristics that make it unique when compared to what people typically think of as a liquid. The most obvious characteristics being a higher viscosity and a sticky texture. As for packaging, the maple syrup industry boasts some very unique bottle designs. Unlike other industries, such as distilled spirits where bottles are typically 750 or 375 ml with little variety in their shapes, you may find maple syrup bottles shaped like a leaf, a tree, a log cabin, a snowman or some other creative design. Such variation can lead to modifications in packaging equipment or even in the design of completely custom machinery. Still, liquid packaging solutions do exist for maple syrup, and a few of the essential machines are described below.
While rinsing machinery will not be found on all packaging lines, it is normally found on lines packaging food products, and the unique bottles mentioned above can create a tough situation for packagers looking to clean bottles before introducing the syrup. For round or other bottles, rinsing machines will actually clamp and invert bottles as they move in to the rinse area, lifting the bottles from the conveyor over a rinse basin. Once inverted, the machine will use air, water or other rinse media to clean the interior of the containers to avoid contamination resulting from dust and other debris that may be in the container. For the unique bottles, a bottle vacuum offers a second option that will not require the container to be lifted and inverted. Instead, the bottle vacuum seals over the opening and vacuums out debris.
As already mentioned, syrup has a tendency to be a slow flowing product. Overflow filling machines are typically used for free-flowing, water-like liquids. However, maple syrup is an exception to this rule! Maple syrup becomes an exception because the product will be heated to fill the bottles. Not only does the heating discourage the growth of bacteria, but keeping the syrup at a constant temperature keeps it at the same consistency during the fill. As syrup changes temperature, it will also change viscosity, which would make consistent fills extremely difficult if the temperature were not controlled during the fill. The higher temperature makes the syrup slightly less viscous and allows the overflow filler to be an efficient solution for filling bottles.
Neither the product nor the shape of the bottle will have much to do with choosing the best capping machine for maple syrup. Instead, the type of closure used on the bottle will go a long way toward determining the best capping solution. Most maple syrup bottles will use a screw-on type closure, which means either a spindle capper or chuck capper will usually be found on a packaging line for the product. Unique bottles may still require custom solutions for bottle stability, but using either spindle wheels or chuck heads to screw on and tighten caps will almost always be the best solution for maple syrup bottles.
Whether glass or plastic bottles are used, the rinse, fill and cap combinations described above will usually make up a typical bottling line for maple syrup. Of course, other equipment may also be found, including labeling and coding machinery to present the product to the consumer and include information such as a batch code or expiration date, respectively. While a unique product in several respects when it comes to packaging, machinery for maple syrup still consistently adds efficiency and reliability to the packaging process.