PA helps Tanfield extend shelf life

With increasing demand for pre-packed fresh and long life foods, Packaging Automation offers a comprehensive range of tray sealing equipment and tooling to meet the many requirements of today’s fast-paced food industry.

Geoff Allison CEO at Tanfield Food Company, the owner of the ‘Look What We Found’ range of ready meals, had no hesitation in returning to PA for tray sealing equipment when the business needed to cope with increased demand. He hired an eclipse SL4, a fully electric machine that requires zero air for operation and can seal up to 75 packs per minute.

Tanfield is processing sealed trays of ready meals through a retort system to gain an extended 1 year shelf life. PA assisted Tanfield by designing a tray sealer that could reduce the head space in the sealed packs prior to retort.

PA’s seal technologist Simon Wilson explains, “Tanfield was sealing it’s trays with hot product and then putting them through a retort system. Due to the build up of internal pressure, the over pressure on the retort needed to be set higher to reduce the level of failed packs. The film would put pressure on the seal and also dome up in the retort and stretch, which would then not allow the product to fit into the sleeve.

Partial vacuum is now being used to pull the lid in giving a concaved look when the tray has been sealed. At the point when the trays go into the retort, the film height has been reduced.

Due to the reduced amount of head space in the tray prior to retort, the film does not reach the same height as previously seen, although the trays have the same internal pressure inside.

Simon continues, the number of failed packs coming out of the retort process has been reduced therefore improving efficiencies and film stretch has been reduced allowing the trays to slide easily into the sleeves”.

Geoff Alison said “We have worked with PA on previous projects and respect them for good value, quality machines and service. We saw the eclipse on a site visit and we were very impressed. The machine met our needs and was very easy to use so it was an easy decision”. He said “You know when you have bought the right machine because it simply looks and feels right.”


Packaging Automation Ltd was established in 1963 and is a leading UK manufacturer of tray sealing and pot filling and sealing machinery.
PA can offer customers a tray sealer or pot filler for a wide range of applications in the food industry including fresh produce packing such as salad, tomato, strawberry and soft fruit packing, fish, seafood, meat and chicken packing (including vacuum packing and skin packing), ready meal sealing and packing, and pot or tub denesting, filling and sealing for puddings and sauces.
Full packing lines can be specified and installed to include tray denesting, conveyoring, tray filling, film sealing including modified atmosphere packing (MAP) facilities. Foil tray sealing as well as plastic tray sealing can be accommodated on all machines as standard.
PA also has experience in the medical and consumer goods sectors offering machinery for blister packing a wide range of products.