OH SNAP!® Pickling Company, based in Wisconsin,  is in the final stages of installing two new high-speed SOMIC end-of-line packaging machines. The first of the popular 424 W3 wraparound case packers for retail-ready packaging has begun handling the collating and case packing of almost two million single-serve pouches per week.

A division of progressive food producer GLK Foods in Appleton, Wisconsin, the brand was formed in 2015 to produce refrigerated single-serve, brine-less pickled vegetables such as pickles, carrots, green beans, snap peas and jalapeños. GLK is the largest producer of sauerkraut in the U.S., so it wanted to build off the success of its fermentation process for kraut.

Growing into New Equipment

OH SNAP!’s initial foray into the market with stand-up pickle pouches led to impressive results. After more new products were introduced and accepted, management last year decided to invest in constructing a new manufacturing plant in nearby Little Chute to handle the rapidly growing business. 

The nearly 70,000 square-foot facility began brining product in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to spread in the U.S. But demand has remained strong as workers are now producing finished goods and the company is running three shifts around-the-clock, six days a week. Installation of the SOMIC machines could not be better timed.

“We first heard about SOMIC through John Bartmann, our corrugated supplier sales representative at PCA. He introduced us to Peter Fox (the company’s senior vice president of sales) in 2016,” recalls OH SNAP! President Ryan Downs. “I remember thinking that, if the OH SNAP! line ever did the volume to support the purchase of a SOMIC machine, we would have really created something special. We’ll soon be purchasing our third.”

The brand did look at a few other solutions to be sure nothing was missed. Yet, none was as compelling as the SOMIC offering. “We loved the simplicity of its design, its compact nature and the references we received could not have been more glowing. We also learned through our references that start-up would be very quick, and it indeed it has been,” Downs adds.

The Installation Process

“The installation began in late June for the first case packer, followed by the second case packer in early July, says Peter Fox, senior vice president of sales for SOMIC America Inc. “The installation is now complete with some training and support underway as they get the entire system — including the pouch filler and case packers — settled in.”

When asked if there were any nuances to this particular install, Fox says that “the case packers are what we refer to at SOMIC as a counter flow design. This enables the layout to allow for fork truck traffic at the end of the machine as there is no discharge conveyor. The discharge conveyor is designed to transport the finished case onto a spiral conveyor, which has yet to be installed. It would carry the case up and over to the palletizing area using overhead conveyance to save floor space.

“Each machine took one week to be placed in position, have the utilities connected, commission each format, and then move into production. We start at about 50% of the production rate and gradually move up to 100%. This was a vertical start-up, which was an important aspect of these machines,” explains Fox. “Ultimately this production is designed to accommodate up to five fillers, which would each have a case packer. The opportunity to start with two automated lines allows them time to ramp up for a third machine by 2021. The operation may expand to five lines total by 2022.”

Customer Benefits

The SOMIC 424 W3 wraparound case packers are flexible, high performance systems that use decentralized servo drives. To satisfy distribution to retailers such as grocery, big box and C-stores — plus vending and hospitality outlets — throughout North America, and widening the channel to include Europe, OH SNAP! plans to have the machines collate and case pack up to 160 pouches per minute. Product is being divided into three formats of 6-, 12- and 18-count display cartons.

“The changeover for these formats will be 10 minutes for one operator. The flexibility of the machines to run multiple formats is a benefit to the customer, as is the compact design with the layout flexibility. It was also important to have the capability to stand the pouches upright for display purposes in the display case. SOMIC machines are predominantly designed for retail-ready applications, which made them an ideal choice for this application,” says Fox.

OH SNAP! has delivered big results in a short amount of time. At this time, they are producing between 1.5 to 2 million pouches per week. The brand is planning a 40,000 square-feet addition to its facility to accommodate growth of the brand. “By the time it is completed next summer, I expect us to far exceed what we are currently producing,” says Downs.