How to choose the right tray sealing solution for your business

Whether you are a supermarket butchery packing and sealing hundreds of food trays per day, or a growing food manufacturer just exploring tray sealing for your products, getting the right tray sealing solution for your business is crucial. 

But where do you start? Read on for everything you need to know to choose the right tray sealing system for your business. Let's start with the basics. 

Why is tray sealing a good packaging choice? 

There are many benefits to tray sealing products, but these are the biggest drawcards; 
- Produce is kept fresh
- Extends shelf-life
- Leak-proof 
- Recyclable materials
- Excellent presentation
- Convenient for customers 

What is the tray sealing process?

Regardless of the size of your operation, the tray sealing process has 3 fundamental steps. 

Food is prepared and placed into a food tray
The food tray is loaded into a tray sealing machine 
A film is heat sealed to the tray, sealing in the food. 

Here’s a quick video of a semi-automated tray sealer in action: 

Each of these steps relate to the three choices you’ll need to make when choosing your ideal solution. 

- Which trays do I choose? 
- Which lid sealing film do I choose? 
- Which tray sealing machine do I choose? 

Choosing your Food Trays

Choosing the types of tray to suit your product is the best place to start. Start by understanding which materials suit your type of product. 

If your product is packaged fresh, snap-frozen or goes through major temperature changes in its final packaging, like being microwaved or oven-cooked from frozen, then a CPET food tray will suit you best. CPET stands for crystallizable polyethylene terephthalate – put simply, it’s a food grade plastic than can withstand extreme temperature changes, is made from up to 80% recycled material and can be recycled after use. 

Another option for fast-consumption or snap-frozen meals are bagasse sugar cane fibre trays. Find out more in our guide to choosing the best type of food packaging tray.

To get the most flexibility from your eventual solution, with minimal costs, opt for a supplier like Contour International who offer various tray configurations within the same footprint. This will keep your costs down when it comes to choosing your tray sealing machine. 

Choosing your Lidding Film

The next step is to visualise how you want your end product to look when it’s on the shelf. Do you need to weigh products and label them? Do you want your customer to see the food itself? Is brand consistency and recognition your driver? Answering these questions will help you choose the right lidding film.

If you want to put your produce on display, opt for a clear lidding film that lets customers see what they are buying; a popular choice for raw proteins like chicken breasts or steak. 

If your brand needs to come across consistently and be eye-catching, a custom-branded lidding film is a great choice. 

Choosing a Tray Sealer

There are three types of tray sealer that suit different business needs. The most important thing for you to know, is how much volume will you be producing (or need to produce) to meet your business goals. 

If you are just starting out or produce small volumes of packaged product, a well-built manual tray sealer may be the best choice. Manual tray sealers are just that; they rely on a person to load trays into the sealer, seal them, remove the sealed tray as well as any excess lidding film. 

If you are scaling up from small volumes, a semi-automatic tray sealer would be a good fit. Depending on the model, semi-automatic tray sealers take some of the legwork out of tray sealing. For example your staff might load food trays into the sealer and remove them manually, but the sealer will automatically apply the seal and spool any off-cuts of film. 

If you are in full scale production mode, a fully automated tray sealing line will give you the production capacity and efficiency to meet delivery targets with a healthy profit margin. Automatic tray sealers automate the whole workflow; entering trays into the sealer, sealing them, removing off-cuts and can even integrate with weighing and labelling machines to output shelf-ready products with prices applied. 

Make sure everything connects

All too often, we hear of food producers who source equipment and consumables from separate suppliers who are only accountable for their part of the process working. The problem is, not every lidding film is compatible with every tray, and not every tray is compatible with every tray sealer… So when something goes wrong, everyone points the finger at everyone else. Partnering with an end-to-end supplier, like Contour, means you have experts on your team who make sure that your complete packaging system works flawlessly from start to finish. 

Grab the quick reference guide

Check out our quick reference guide to tray sealing, which gives you an easy, visual way to keep the steps in mind that we’ve included in this guide. 


Contour is here to help

Helping food manufacturers choose and use the right equipment and materials to grow their business is what we live for. With 20 years’ of keeping New Zealand’s produce fresh, we have the engineering expertise and service to level our customers up and keep their packaging lines humming along smoothly.  

Talk to our team today about which tray sealing solution will suit your business.

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