Huhtamaki Systems Helps Shape Safeway’s Premium Packaging Upgrade

Posted: May 2, 2014

When Safeway Foods, Pleasanton, CA, decided it needed a “new look” to introduce its 48-oz. ice cream container, they did not have to settle for an off-the-shelf preformed package or wait a year to get it. Working with their current supplier and in-plant systems specialists at Huhtamaki, they went to market with a custom-shaped container. The new, high-impact package with branded graphics used Huhtamaki in-plant forming machines that also enable unmatched production changeover speed and flexibility, along with considerable cost advantages.
“This in-house system and our partnership with Huhtamaki allowed us to respond to marketplace conditions with ease, speed, and relatively little expense,” says Ed Olivero, Safeway v.p. of dairy manufacturing. “From start-to-finish, package design as well as tooling, installation and production were accomplished within six months. Actual conversion of five forming units in both of our ice cream plants was completed within a week and we were feeding new containers directly into the filling lines.”
More than 60 SKUs across a variety of Safeway ice cream product lines are now being sold in the new container, including its Safeway Select® signature brand and Lucerne® ice cream—both distributed system-wide—as well as regional Eating Right and Jersey Maid brands. Safeway ice cream comes from two production plants, Bellevue, WA, and Phoenix, AZ. These plants employ four Huhtamaki Systems™ FM-1400 forming machines that make the Convocan® MX containers.
Safeway is North America’s third largest supermarket chain, operating nearly 1,750 stores primarily in central and western U.S. and Canada, under a variety of store banners. When the initial request for a new package was received from Safeway’s Strategic Sourcing group, Huhtamaki got straight to work.
Huhtamaki sales account manager Allison Vande Kieft says: “Our engineering department immediately began developing container design options—some taller and narrower, some shorter—focusing on meeting Safeway’s objective while making the fullest possible use of their existing in-house assets. Rather than settle for a stock package solution, we made sure Safeway had a custom-tailored container and was able to use current formers with relatively minor adaptations. Once the tapered package shape was approved, we could build the precise tooling to form it and complete all other steps necessary to produce it.”
Meanwhile, Safeway used this opportunity to design new graphics for the tapered containers to bring a totally new look to the marketplace. The packaging was then preprinted, die-cut, and shipped flat from Huhtamaki to Phoenix and Bellevue, just in time for conversion on the formers.
An early adapter of Huhtamaki Systems™, Safeway has been forming its own ice cream containers on-site for years. Although their initial in-house move preceded her working with the account, Vande Kieft notes: “As with most customers who go from preformed to an in-plant system, cost reduction, and efficiencies in shipping, warehousing, and inventory were key factors.”
For one, preprinted and die-cut package sidewalls are shipped flat, with about 10 times as much packaging per truckload compared to a preformed container. As a result, in-plant customers typically can save up to 90% in transportation costs. They also see reductions in costly inventory and warehouse space, as well as related equipment, storage racks and labor costs.
From an overall production standpoint, the ability to form containers on-demand and switch flavors or sizes quickly to meet changes in filling line requirements was - and still is - a major benefit. As previously noted, this flexible system also worked to Safeway’s advantage in implementing their latest packaging concept. For more, visit