Primary Coding and Marking in the Food Industry

Product coding on food packaging is essential within the food industry. Having visible hi-resolution characters, text, scannable bar codes, and logos on the packaging is as important to the company selling their products as it is to the consumer. In this blog, we will talk about coding and marking within the food industry and the importance it serves.

Types of Coding and Marking

There are three main types of coding and marking equipment that are used for printing on primary packaging (the product): continuous inkjet printing (CIJ), thermal inkjet printing (TIJ), and laser coding.
CIJ is the technology of choice for small character high-speed printing due to its ability to print at long throw distances, with high speeds and ink that dries immediately. Squid Ink’s Jetstream® Sonic, is an example of a CIJ printing system typically used for small character printing of primary packaged products.

Thermal inkjet printers utilize replaceable cartridge printheads to print codes on a variety of substrates. The cartridge contains many ink chambers, with each containing a heating element, microscopic in size. When a heat current is passed through the ink chamber, it then ejects an ink droplet. In addition, the coil heating element is charged with a current in the ink chamber above the nozzle. This increases the pressure and allows an ink droplet to go through the nozzle and onto the substrate. The microscopic size of the ink chambers inside a TIJ cartridge allow for hi-resolution printing, up to 600 dpi for Squid Ink’s Viper TIJ printer!

Laser coders use a focused beam of energy to mark a surface through ablation, engraving, or chemical modification (color change). With the ability to create high-quality, permanent discrete marks, a laser code is ideal for applications where presentation and permanency are important.

Importance of Coding and Marking in the Food Industry

All three of these methods are used within the food industry. The type used depends on the type of product and substrate it is packaged in. Both a thermal and continuous inkjet printer can print on a wide variety of substrates such as porous, non-porous, smooth, textured, curved, concave containers, and more.

When looking for an inkjet printing system, it is important to look for high print quality. Since many of the codes on products in the food industry are expiration dates, high-quality, legible print is crucial. If the code wears off or is not legible, stores and customers will not know when the food will spoil. Worse, an already spoiled product could be served to the customer, potentially compromising their health. These crucial codes also contain traceability information to help consumers know if their products have been involved in a safety recall.

Laser coders are an ideal alternative where CIJ systems are not practical. These systems can permanently mark products like milk jugs, salad dressing bottles, beverages, cereal boxes, and more. In addition, a laser coding system ensures that the mark will not fade or wear off. For example, Squid Ink’s SQ Laser Clean and eco-friendly coding systems can permanently code text, time and date, bar codes, serial numbers, and more.

A high-quality print is essential, especially in the food industry. With today’s technology, there are more options than ever to give your product a high-quality finish and give your customers the peace of mind that they are receiving an excellent product.
To learn more about the coding and marking technologies that Squid Ink offers, visit our product pages and view our full selection of equipment to help you find the right solution for printing on your products!