The Durable Industrial Marking Blog

Guide to Choosing Ink for Food Packaging

Posted by Matt Martin

Direct part marking food packaging often requires that the marking components have specific properties. Ink for food packaging, specifically, needs to meet a few key criteria. To understand what to look for in food packaging marking solutions, it is necessary to look at why we mark food packaging and the unique challenges inherent in this type of packaging.

packaging-date-coding-type.jpgWhy We Mark Food Packaging

From cereal boxes to meat products, our grocery store shelves are lined with perishable food products. Many of these products have a couple of pieces of information (or more) that need to be permanently and clearly marked onto their packaging.

Some of the most commonly marked date coding and traceability information on food packaging includes barcodes, expiration dates, lot numbers and batch coding. This information is critical for being able to track individual units as well as batches of product, quality control, and aiding in the sale of the products. Getting this information onto each of the packages is a necessary and vital part of the product's life cycle.

The nature of food packaging itself, however, can present a couple of challenges to direct part marking methods. First, food packaging is often flexible. Think of cereal, for instance. Some cereal is packaged inside of a cardboard sleeve onto which you could mark a barcode and expiration date. Some cereal, however, is packaged inside a plastic bag that serves as its only form of packaging. The bag isn’t ridged or flat like the cardboard which can make the application of a date code somewhat tricky. 

Some products will also be exposed to damp or wet environments. Products that are frozen, for instance, will need to be able to retain their barcode markings even if they become slightly damp from temperature changes.

What to Look for in Ink for Food Packaging

packaging-printing-package-printing.jpgSome of the most commonly employed methods of marking food packaging utilize ink. This is because various methods of ink printing (from hand held printers used in stores to carton and case coders used during production) tend to be the most cost-effective solutions for direct part marking food packaging. The versatile properties of ink are another reason why ink can be an ideal solution for the coding of flexible packaging.

Ink for food packaging, for instance, can be used on the types of surfaces food is typically packed inside of. Most food products are packaged in various types of plastic, glass, and paper. These surfaces present challenges, like those we discussed above, and ink is one of the least expensive and simple ways of marking them.

Additionally, ink can be used with various marking methods, like rubber stamps and portable ink jet printers, that are easy to adjust. Expiration dates, for example, need to be adjusted continuously, so any marking method used to mark an expiration date needs to be easy to change. 

With all of that in mind, here are the most important things to consider when choosing ink for food packaging.

  • What is the substrate (material) being marked?
  • What color ink is required?
  • How is the required dry time?
  • Can the ink be used on porous and non-porous surfaces?
  • Does the ink need to be waterproof or resistant?
  • How long does the ink impression need to last?
  • What is the volume of packages that need to be marked?
  • What is your budget?

The Types of Ink that Work Best

We offer a few types of ink suitable for food packaging. Below are the most commonly recommended inks for food packaging.

#1250 All Purpose Ink for Non-Porous Substrates - Excellent all purpose, waterproof solvent ink, ideal for use on a wide variety of porous and non-porous substrates. Superior performance in a
wide variety of automatic coders and hand stamps.

#992/FRZN Ink for Frozen Food Packaging - This ink provides excellent adhesion under the harshest conditions. Particularly, it is suitable for use on poly bags, metal, and waxed paper, and will imprint through layers of moisture. The imprint will remain intact during refrigeration. #992 uses raw materials that meet the USDA requirements for use on barrier food packaging. Dry time is 30-45 seconds.

#628 Ink for Packaging Films - This pigmented ink adheres exceptionally well to packaging films and plastics, including polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, PET, foil, and cellophane. Dry time is 10-15 seconds.

Hot Melt Ink Rolls - These ink rolls are available in a variety of sizes and ink formulas to suit your specific application requirements (type of equipment being used in, substrate, and temperature setting). Black and white are the most common colors and dry time varies depending on the substrate and ink formula chosen. 

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This post was published on June 2, 2022 and updated on June 2, 2022.

Topics: Food and Beverage, Ink Jet Fluids

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