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The Beginners Guide to Individually Wrapping Cookies

    Individually wrapped cookies

    Individually wrapping cookies can be done in a whole range of ways. The secret however, to successful wrapping, is using a method that is both economical and keeps air to a minimum.

    Note, this is more of a technical article, on the correct type and method of packaging cookies, especially if you want to sell them in shops. If you’re looking for more of an aesthetic guide to wrapping gift cookies beautifully, see this post.

    Interestingly, air is not really the big destroyer of cookies, but the moisture in the air is a problem. Too dry and the cookies go hard. Too wet and they go soft, or worse, allow mould to grow.

    But before we get all scientific, let’s just wrap some cookies using the tried and test methods.

    Individually Wrapped Cookies

    Here are the most popular ways to wrap cookies in food safe packaging:

    1. The hand tied method.
    Ideal for custom gifts, small batches of cookies and adding a personal touch. The tie can be as simple as a sandwich bag tie (plastic coated wire) or more ornate with string, ribbons or ready made bows.
    This is an effective way to tie a bag tight shut, but it’s not guaranteed sealed and provides no food security, so it’s only suitable for personal gifts. Retail sales will need a more secure seal.

    Pros

    Packaging is easy to buy in small and large quantities and hundreds of sizes from lots of retailers.

    Looks homemade and personal.

    Can be customised with gift tags.

    Cons

    Slow and fiddly to wrap.

    Not airtight, reducing shelf life and biosecurity.

    2. Hand Held Heat Sealer
    This pocket heat sealer is a great saver of snacks and pre-prepared foods for the fridge and freezer. Ideal for sealing or resealing plastic bags.

    Just pop your product in a bag and slide the sealer along the top.

    Pros

    Fits in a drawer, low cost and provides an airtight seal.

    Cons

    Slow to use.

    Inconsistent sealing.

    Small arm length limits the depth of bag you can seal without cutting it first.

    3. Impulse Sealer
    Also known as a Jaw Sealer, this is often the first step in regular food bagging. Low cost, easy to use and provides a good seal on most plastics.

    Simply pop your bake in a bag or tubular bag and drape over the unit. Lower the arm until it clicks and your bag is sealed. The variable timer on the front sets the heating time for different bag thicknesses.

    Pros

    Cheap <£50, and easy to use.

    Small footprint makes it easy to store in a cupboard.

    Some models come with a sliding blade, ideal for trimming the top of bags or cutting between products in a tubular bag.

    Cons

    Only suited to small production runs.

    Teflon tape covering the heating element burns out over time.

    The raised base means soft products can bend while you wait for the seal to melt.

    4. Horizontal Band Sealer
    Band sealers are the first step into conveyor systems. The conveyor belt carries your product through a series of wheels which heat and melt your plastic together, forming a seal.

    They can be very quick to use but are best suited to pouches and semi-rigid bags. Softer bags typically used in hand tying tend to snag causing melted plastic to transfer onto the drive belt.

    Pros

    Low cost, <£200

    Faster than Impulse Sealers

    Small footprint (around a metre long)

    Easy to set up

    Cons

    Tricky to clean

    Heating element temperatures can fluctuate creating a lot of waste and frustration

    Limited to small bags and pouches

    5. L-Sealer
    The first stop for small and mid-size bakeries.

    These are industry standard machines, bagging everything from cookies to loaves of bread.

    A roll of plastic sheet is folded in half before you place your product inside. Pulling down the handle creates a seal on two sides in an L shape and breaks the plastic at the same time. This releases the product for the next one to be pushed in.

    L-sealer for wrapping cookies and bakery products

    Pros

    Fast and easy to use

    Reliable mechanisms and heating elements

    Flat base supports the product

    Many models can be used with accessories and other machines such as bag feed rolls and shrink wrap tunnels

    Cons

    Prices for new models start around £1,000

    Takes up more space starting at 1-2 metres

    Products have to be manually pushed in and the handle pulled down

    Not well suited to small products such as individual cookies

    6. Automatic L-Sealer
    The next step up in automation. These operate like L-Sealers but with added conveyor and arm mechanisms.

    Typically suited to a higher throughput production line, these are big machines requiring a lot of floorspace.

    Automatic L-sealer

    Pros

    Faster throughput than a standard manual L-Sealer

    Can be used with shrink tunnels and as part of an automated bagging line

    Cons

    £5k-£10,000+

    Large size only suited to commercial premises

    Typically 3 phase electricity (not suitable for household plugs)

    7. Flow Wrapper
    The flow wrapper is designed for high speed wrapping. Think 100’s or 1000’s of products per minute.

    Every product is fully encased in the wrapping film, sealed underneath and at both ends in a fraction of a second.
    Any mass produced confectionery bar is flow wrapped.

    They’re notoriously difficult to set up, but once running, your output will rarely fail to meet your input.

    Flow wrapper

    Pros

    Exceptionally high speed throughput

    Very economical to run

    Can be used with automated high speed labelling and batch printing

    Cons

    £20k-£100,000+

    The vast majority of models need 3 phase electricity

    Even small models start around 3 metres long

    Complex set up means they’re only suited to one or two sizes of product

    So those are the options for wrapping your cookies.
    The most common progress in cookie wrapping tends to follow this pattern:

    1. Hand tied cookies as gifts and maybe a local market or shop
    2. Progress to a jaw sealer to meet demand at markets and another shop or two
    3. Potentially try a horizontal bagging machine
    4. Save up for an L-Sealer and designate a room or countertop to bagging

    At this stage the investment spirals upward into commercial premises and production line systems, requiring much more complex food hygiene considerations. At any stage you will need to consider your wrapping materials, such as bags, films and paper. This is the topic of the next post.

    If you found this post useful, or have hints and tips to share of your own, please add them to the comments below to help other bakers.

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