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Alpma USA offers tamper-proof, foil wrap packaging solutions to cheesemakers

By Alyssa Mitchell

MILWAUKEE — With food safety top-of-mind for cheese manufacturers, Alpma USA is offering new tamper proof packaging options as well as its longtime foil wrapping solutions for U.S. cheesemakers.

German-based Alpma, with U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, produces cheesemaking, cutting and packaging equipment and technology installations for the dairy and food industries.

The company has a rich history and foundation in dairy packaging solutions.

• A foundation in packaging

Alpma was founded in the 1940s by Gottfried Hain upon his observation that paper packaging for dairy products was lacking in flexibility.

“He had to invent a new machine to pack soft cheeses like Camembert,” says Axel von Wardenburg, vice president of sales, Alpma USA.

Hain began using more flexible foil wrapping to wrap soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, primarily for the French market.

After graduating as a mechanical engineer from the Technical University of Munich, Hain’s son, Gottfried Hain Jr., practiced his trade for a year in France before taking over as director of Alpma in 1960. Under his leadership, the company was relocated from Lehen, Germany, to Rott am Inn, Germany, where its headquarters were built.

Alpma developed into a global network of companies with subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Spain, as well as having agencies in other countries.

“Gottfried Hain Jr. was the driving force behind pioneering developments such as the coagulator for the continuous production of cheese curd, the full mechanization of cheese production with blockforms, the cutting machine for yellow and hard cheeses, as well as the SAN range of packaging machines for soft cheeses, which make Alpma the leading supplier of dairy technology and packaging machines,” notes von Wardenburg.

After a successful 50-year cooperation between Alpma and its U.S. distributor/agent Ivarson Inc., Milwaukee, the two companies decided to increase Alpma’s presence in North America by establishing Alpma USA in Milwaukee in January 2013, with von Wardenburg appointed as vice president of sales.

Today, Alpma continues to produce machines and installations for the dairy and food industries. The company’s process technology, cheese production technology, and cutting and packaging divisions offer customers and partners a unique range of products — all from a single supplier — from machines that lead the field both technically and technologically to the processing and packaging of food to complete system solutions for dairies, von Wardenburg notes.

“We were always doing some business here, but that has very much intensified,” he says of the establishment of Alpma’s U.S. headquarters. “We can do a lot more now with a base here.”

• Key offerings

Von Wardenburg notes that while cheesemaking equipment, particularly continuous curd preparation, and cheese cutting equipment, particularly exact-weight cutting, are the main focus of Alpma’s U.S. business, the company is working to increase its North American packaging offerings as well.

Wrapping different types and sizes with one machine is a key offering for North American manufacturers of Camembert and Brie, he says, noting Alpma’s offerings are so versatile that without using tools manufacturers can change the machine to pack a square cheese in the morning and a round cheese in the afternoon.

The company also offers solutions for packing wrapped cheeses into boxes or cartons.

Alpma recently has added lines for Hispanic cheeses as well, von Wardenburg notes.

“Because we are in the U.S., we learned there are more soft-type cheeses to wrap other than Camembert and Brie, such as Hispanic cheeses,” he says.

He adds while foil wrapping is a an ideal option to present an attractive package to the end consumer, it has to have functionality, “It works for soft cheeses, which need to breath, but you cannot pack Cheddar in it, for example,” von Wardenburg says.

Alpma currently offers Fresh Pack — a newer, tamper-proof packaging option for cream cheese and cheese spread — in the European market and is looking to bring the technology to more North American manufacturers as well, von Wardenburg says.

Fresh Pack is a change from Alpma’s classic Soft Pack fold wrap that, combined with a longitudinal seal and an easy-opening feature, makes products safe and consumer friendly.

In addition to Soft Pack, Alpma also offers an envelope wrapping without a longitudinal seal in its SAN 60/CS series. Thanks to the folding principle “from top to bottom,” particularly soft products are able to be packaged gently and are given a traditional handmade look, von Wardenburg notes.

“The Alpma SAN range offers clever hygienic concepts from the basic model right through to the fully-automatic packaging line so that your products can shine,” he says. “All different shapes and formats can be wrapped economically using machine-standard films and foils, despite the usual dimensional tolerances of natural products.”

Von Wardenburg adds that another new North American offering is in development, with more details to come this spring.

• Strategic partnerships

Alpma has benefited from several strategic partnerships throughout the years that have helped to grow its offerings.

“The connection to a company group with our subsidiaries from the cheese branch forms the basis of our technological know-how and makes us sensitive to the technical demands and problems of our customers,” von Wardenburg says.

Most recently, in March 2019 Alpma entered into an agreement with Statco-DSI Process Systems to jointly market Alpma’s membrane technology in the North American dairy market. Under the terms of the agreement, Alpma supplies the engineering and technology for membrane applications, and Statco-DSI acts as the turnkey integrator of the complete process system, von Wardenburg notes. The partnership offerings include reverse osmosis and polishing, nanofiltration, ultrafiltration and microfiltration systems across a wide range of dairy applications including pre-processing of milk for dairies, as well as the processing of sweet and acid whey into high-quality whey protein products.

Alpma earlier in 2019 completed the acquisition of a majority stake in the Mozzarella and semi-hard cheese equipment producer Sulbana. With this merger, the Alpma Group further extended its leading position as an equipment producer for the cheese industry, von Wardenburg notes.

“In the market segment of pasta filata cheeses as well as typical semi-hard cheeses, both companies combine their experience of many decades and offer the broadest and most technologically advanced product range within the industry under the brand name Alpma-Sulbana,” von Wardenburg says. “On the basis of a successful development of both companies during recent years, the merger offers the opportunity to support dairies all over the world in a large variety of cheeses.”

He notes the focus of the merger has been the entire supply chain, from technological consulting, designing and building equipment all the way to service and automated data management.

Alpma and Sulbana together employ more than 850 people worldwide and offer a global sales and service network, he adds.

“We are very happy with Sulbana — we’re both family-owned companies with similar values,” von Wardenburg says.

He adds that with the partnership, Alpma now has the opportunity to offer its customers complete equipment for the production of low-moisture and fresh Mozzarella.

“Sulbana now provides us with the ability to offer all the pasta filata equipment that we didn’t have before,” von Wardenburg says. “It’s a big market in North America. This is a very important step for us and our customers.”

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