IMA, always new: as is its long-standing custom, IMA has news. News of its tea and coffee packaging machinery. News too of its employees. Jonathan Bell sits down with Gaetano Castiglione.
A leading packaging machinery source for the international tea industry, IMA has for many years regularly launched new machinery and equipment. With factories and headquarters in the greater Bologna area, IMA has earned its position as sales leader in teabag making machinery worldwide--and more recently as a player in coffee soft-pod making machinery. This has been achieved by emphasizing electronics and software in packaging machines and lines, alongside the company's continuing focus on a traditional excellence in engineering and tooling--a specialty of the Bologna region.
IMA also now keeps pace in various global packaging sectors as the company has grown exponentially in recent years. As a result some might ask about the status of IMAms commitment to tea, and to coffee, which combined makes for a smaller share of corporate turnover then in the past.
Tea Bag Makers--Faster and Slower
Such concern ought to be allayed by the introductions of IMA's C24 and C27 Tea Bag Makers and Lines. The C24 is IMA's production star, being a high-speed maker of a double chamber bag of non-heat sealable paper. The bag formed is staple-free as the C24 employs a string knotting technology to bag and to tag. Various hard tag shapes can be used. Speed is at up to 350 bags/minute. The bag can be finished naked or, more typically, enclosed in a crimped outer envelope. The maker can also produce bags in a heat sealed, airtight and waterproof outer envelope.
The C24 has been engineered to include such hi-tech features as a video-camera control of the knotting functions plus programmable PC control of the entire working cycle. The maker is hailed by IMA for its advanced, automatic, single-bag quality control function, whereby ejection of an inferior bag and replacement with a proper bag is integrated for an assured counting process of a virtually identical product.
Like the C24, the C27 incorporates many new IMA bag-forming technologies to produce a double chamber, staple-free bag in non-heat sealable paper. It uses, for example, the same knottings functions and offers the choice in tags and for a production of naked, paper enveloped or airtight sealed bags.
Yet overall, the C27 is a simpler maker, although it still incorporates the main electronic and programmable features of its cousin--such as the automatic bad bag ejection and advanced counting functions.
It is designed for easy use and maintenance; it allows greater focus for the use of herbal and non-free flowing products, as well as of teas. The C27 incorporates a special feeder for non-tea contents. It also can be readily adjusted for hand-retrieval of bags from five to 50 units. As a simpler, friendlier-to-user, dedicated machine, the C27 is also a medium-speed maker, running at 250 bags per minute, for lower production demands.
Both the C27 and the C24 can be complimented by the same IMA integrated, highly versatile, Cartoner Attachment.
The New CA3 Pod Maker
Quite new, on the coffee side of IMA, is its CA3 pod maker. While building on the speed and technology of the CA series--the CA1 for example produces 800 soft pods per minute, gas flushed in heat sealed envelopes--the CA3 is a departure for IMA.
The CA3 is designed for lower pod speed requirements, producing 250 units per minute, while maximizing flexibility and minimizing machine size. Most importantly, the CA3 makes both espresso and regular paper coffee pods.
The CA3 also has an integrated cartooning unit to put the pods into a carton box and can be easily connected to a unit producing heat sealed top packs. The CA3 machine will be displayed for the first time at the SIC Exhibition taking place in Milan, Italy on October 19-23, 2007.
Gaetano Gastiglione--A short discussion with the new president of the IMA Tea, Coffee & Beverage Division.
Bell: What is your professional experience in teabag machinery and with IMA?
Castiglione: At university I studied economics and political science, and also took an additional technical degree. I joined IMA in 1985, working in the design area of the Research & Development Department. In 1989 I moved to IMA's Marketing Department.
You could say that through time I've 'experienced' IMA in almost all its departments as I later joined sales, becoming sales director of the Tea Division in 1998. I was named general manager of the Tea Division in 2001. Most recently I am managing the IMA Tea, Coffee & Beverage Division and Pharmaceutical packaging division.
Bell: Can you quantify IMA sales growth in teabag making machine sales over the past two decades?
Castiglione: By number of makers sold, growth has been more than four fold since I joined IMA in the mid 1980s. But number of units sold is misleading as through time the market value of the technology involved has far outpaced unit count.
For example, IMA has built a market share worldwide of more than 50% of teabag making units sold. But in considering value of the units, then one is talking of a two-thirds share of the market.
Bell: What are the salient development features of the IMA teabag maker in recent times?
Castiglione: Higher speeds, more dedicated software, more flexibilities in making and cartooning, ever greater emphasis on quality control functions--all these factor. A particular development focus has been in electronics. An IMA maker is now about 50% in electronics.
Bell: What are current trends in demands on teabag making machinery?
Castiglione: Developments in making must be both a reply to packers and to consumers. Dosing for example has become a key focus in our developments. As markets have flourished for flavored, fruit, herbal 'teas,' dosing requirements have changed from those for regular tea. In its technological reply to this demand, I think IMA has found a unique functional strength.
Consumer expectations have also been changing, not only for a variety of teas and related infusion beverages, but also for greater purity. The demand is for more heat-sealing to preserve flavor.
This is also why IMA makers now knot the string as staples become unfashionable on the bag. For this same reason, bag paper qualities are also changing toward more transparency--the drinker wants to see what is in the bag. There are also mounting environmental concerns involved, to which our Research & Development Department is committed to engaging.
Bell: What financial support does IMA provide for R&D in its tea and beverage packaging sector?
Castiglione: IMA is, and has been in recent years, putting some 7% of turnover back into this division's R&D. I think this is what makes the difference for us.
We have built a place for IMA as a global resource for teabag research and development. As a company, the return to beverage packaging development is in fact higher than that in its pharmaceutical division.
IMA has known remarkable expansion in packaging, but it is important I think to stress that the tea area, coffee shares now in this too, remains a standard of company pride.
Bell: What national teabag markets are of special importance to IMA, and where are the developing markets?
Castiglione: Every national market is of interest to IMA. However, the U.K. remains a key market, after all it is where the fashion for teabags had such amazing growth and actually can be said to have created the teabag maker manufacturing sector. To this day, tea retains its stronghold in the U.K., per capita consumption there is 50 times what it is in Italy, for example. The U.K. is consuming 150,000 tons of tea per year so it naturally holds importance to IMA.
Germany, Poland and now South Korea are big markets for teabags too. Many markets are growing around the world, but certainly Russia is a standout as it moves from loose tea to teabags. I would say the biggest recent gains in the market are in Russia.
Everyone knows, of course, that China and India are currently the sleeping giants of potential growth in teabags. But should the fashion for teabags not catch on in these huge markets there remains a strong future for teabags and teabag makers.
Bell: Turning to IMA coffee pod makers, how is IMA positioned on the pod maker market?
Castiglione: Pods and pod makers have become a strong growth sector and thus highly attractive. IMA started late in the sector, however, and has had to play catch-up. Our goal in pod makers is to become the leader--just as we are in teabag makers.
Bell: What strategy are you following to achieve this goal?
Castiglione: The division has made a commitment to focusing on developing and manufacturing top quality pod makers, the very best. Cost is not an issue to us in achieving this. We are giving our pod makers the same unique qualities in dosing and paper handling that have made the global reputation for IMA teabag makers. Doing this we want also to give coffee itself the finest possible handling so as to preserve it best taste attributes.
Bell: What is new in your pod maker line?
Castiglione: IMA now has three pod making models. The newest is the CA3 just now being marketed. It will be an important entry in the sector and we are excited by its potential.
In general we are moving forward to cover the demand of pod manufacturers and of the pod consumer market place. In this, IMA is offering a total packaging solution, from bean to pod to pack to over wrapping to palletization.
Bell: Where are IMA pod maker sales?
Castiglione: They are sold in many nations, but IMA is currently seeing promising sales of its pod makers in the north of Europe, U.S., Italy, Spain and around the Mediterranean basin.