Automated packaging of candy and chewing gum

Have you ever heard the expression “Nobody likes a sweet tooth”? The origin of this popular saying is uncertain, but all evidence suggests that it stems from the common experience that most people like sweets from an early age. In fact, the very origin of candy is unclear: The two oldest known types of candy are licorice and ginger, and in ancient Egypt, China and the Arab world, honey was mixed with fruits and nuts to make candy.

It was not until the Middle Ages that sugar was used to make them, a scarce and expensive ingredient that meant sweets were only served on special occasions. In the 17th century, candy became popular again thanks to sugar cane, and in the 19th century, candy began to be produced and marketed on a large scale. Until then, candies were made with natural ingredients and in a variety limited to nuts, fruits and other available sweeteners. However, the 20th century brought an expansion in the variety of candies available on the market. Hard candies, gummy candies, chocolate candies, chewing gum and many other types were introduced. Iconic candy brands such as Hershey’s, Mars and Wrigley became leaders in the candy industry, and the candy sector became a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Today, confectionery is present in every aspect of our lives, from meetings and events to celebrations and anniversaries, and is even linked to cultural traditions around the world. However, with all the variety of formats, flavors and textures we find in such a widely consumed food, there is a challenge: packaging.

As with pralines, the packaging of candy and chewing gum today goes far beyond simple preservation and transportation.

What is the importance of candy and chewing gum packaging today?

The functionality of candy packaging, like the product itself, has evolved over the centuries. Today, packaging is designed to grab our attention and make us want to eat something sweet. Bright colors, appetizing images and creative designs are key elements in the marketing strategy of these candies.

On the other hand, candy packaging retains its original functionality: to transport candy without damaging it, especially due to the sticky texture that sugar or honey acquires at a certain temperature. In this sense, individual packages of sweets or boxes of chewing gum that fit in a pocket or purse have been one of the great successes of confectionery packaging.

There are other factors that have influenced the packaging of these types of products in recent years. The first is the regulation of the information to be displayed, such as ingredients, expiry date and nutritional information; the second is the growing concern for sustainability, which has led more and more companies to adopt sustainable packaging practices,using recyclable or biodegradable materials.

And, of course, the major challenge posed by the global success of this product: the constant need to optimize packaging processes to meet an increasing global demand. Automation has played a key role here.

The keys to automated candy and gum packaging

Candis and chewing gums come in a wide variety of formats, sizes and textures, from the simplest, most functional packages to the most sophisticated, high-end candy packs.

So how do you automate their packaging? By using specialized machines designed to handle a wide variety of sizes and shapes. These machines can perform several key functions:

    • Wrapping: A very high percentage of candy production is bulk bagged using VFFS vertical bagging machines designed to form pillow, stabilio or doypack bags.
    • Top-load cartoning: Top-load cartoning with Delta robots is an efficient application for placing jars or packs of chewing gum into cartons.
    • Case packing: Cartoning of candy and confectionery pouches into display boxes is commonly performed by Delta robots guided by artificial vision or Cartesian systems, depending on the type of packing and product configuration. In the case of pouches, Delta robots allow products to be packed vertically, horizontally or upright into the cases. However, Cartesian systems are considered highly efficient for case packing chewing gum jars.

What are the challenges in candy packaging automation?

The main challenge in candy packaging automation is the wide variety of formats and consistencies that characterize these products. In this sense, flexibility becomes a key factor in the packaging process, since different types of products and packaging must be handled, from bags of different sizes to boxes with different opening systems. Also, to be taken into account are the various ways in which the product can be presented inside the box, whether in a vertical, horizontal or upright position.

Another challenge is the search for more sustainable packaging. The industry is looking for packaging alternatives that reduce the use of plastics and non-biodegradable materials.

Discover the different display box presentations and their opening systems.

Display boxes play a key role on the supermarket shelf as they are designed to attract the consumer’s attention, present the products in an attractive way and make it easier to select and purchase confectionery.

The most common display box presentations are:

    • Row presentation: The candies are arranged in neat rows inside the box, making it easier to see and select each one individually. Products can be displayed upright or on edge.
    • Layered presentation: The candies are displayed at different levels within the box, allowing a greater number of products to be displayed in a compact space. The products are usually in a horizontal position.

The opening systems in display boxes are varied and are designed to facilitate access to the candies and confectionery. Some of these systems include :

Back-opening and front loading of the product

Top-opening with flat product loading

Front-opening and front-loading of the product

Adaptability, an essential factor in candy packaging

To meet the challenges of the previous point, a high-precision robotic system specifically designed for candy packaging is required. What should we consider?

      • Vision technologies: Various vision systems are used to ensure maximum accuracy. These technologies are used to detect the position and orientation of each candy bag. In addition, the vision system must be able to accommodate quickly to product changes.

      • Wide range of formats: The variety of shapes and sizes of both, candies and containers, requires flexible equipment that can easily adapt to each format without compromising the quality of the final product.

      • Robotic versatility: Robotic grippers are key in packaging and must be designed to adapt to different product formats. Their versatility allows them to work with a variety of containers, boxes and configurations, ensuring accurate and efficient packaging.

      • Intuitive user interface:  It must have an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use interface for configuring new formats.

      • Integration with Quality Control Systems: The ability to easily integrate with inspection systems independent of the robotic line is critical to ensure that only products in optimal condition are packaged and reach the end consumer.

      • Hygiene and food safety: Machines must be designed to operate in a food environment and be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. 

    In summary, candy and gum packaging is much more than just a package. It is a marketing tool, an expression of the brand and an integral part of the consumer experience. However, your current production presents certain challenges that only optimal automated packaging can help you overcome.

    Want to learn more about our  robotic packaging systems?