Canadian Packaging

Equipped To Grow – Canadian Packaging, June 2014

Quebec meat processor takes next step in its growth with new thermoformer equipment


July 24, 2014
by Andrew Joseph, Canadian Packaging Features Editor, Photos by Mario Jobin

In the history of any business, there are indeed pockets in time that are obviously more important than others—pivotal moments that define a company when things go either horribly wrong or incredibly right.
One such positive moment at Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume Inc., a meat processing plant situated in the Lac-Saint-Charles district of Quebec City, occurred after it recently purchased a brand new thermoformer.
When Boucherie Rhéaume first opened up its doors in 1987, company owners Gaétan and Manon Rhéaume envisioned it to be a hopefully profitable, local butcher shop supplying locals in the area with quality cuts of meat.
While any new business owner would be lying if they didn’t envision that their new business would one day be a global leader, the Rhéaume family were smart enough to realize the Rome was not built in a day.

(From left) Gaétan Rhéaume, Co-owner, Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume Inc.; Audrey Rhéaume, Head of Sales & Development; Manon Rhéaume, Co-owner.

(From left) Gaétan Rhéaume, Co-owner, Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume Inc.; Audrey Rhéaume, Head of Sales & Development; Manon Rhéaume, Co-owner.

The Boucherie Rhéaume shop started small, but thanks to following its own business plan right from Day One to only serve quality meat and meat products, things began to work well for them.
Despite a fair number of other local butchers in the area, Boucherie Rhéaume began to thrive, even more so after it diversified their customer base slightly to now provide its meats to local area hotels, restaurants and other institutions.
While business was always on the upswing, it was quite apparent that while the world of retail was fun and profitable, in order to take things to the next level, the company had to evolve.
In 1993, Boucherie Rhéaume stopped dealing with the retail market, and reinvented itself to deal exclusively with the wholesale market.
According to Gaétan Rhéaume, “We decided to abandon the retail meat business in order to create a better future for the company, where we could achieve that by utilizing our expertise gained from our growing customer base and apply it on a larger scale.”
The plan worked, and over the ensuing 21 years, Boucherie Rhéaume grew its customer base enough to warrant three expensive facility renovations while increasing the size of its production line area to its current size of 8,000-square-feet, a good success story for a company that started out as a butcher in a little shop.

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The Repak RE15 thermoformer from Reiser provides excellent food safety benefits and a long product shelf-life.

Regional Player
Today, Boucherie Rhéaume is considered to be a growing regional player in the food wholesale market, now providing a more diverse line-up of high quality cuts of beef, veal, pork and chicken, as well as sausages, greaves (the edible unmeltable residue left after animal fat has been rendered), meat skewers, and marinated meats and stuffed meat products.
“Our strength is our ability to provide competitive prices, fresh meats and other home-made products,” notes Rhéaume, “and since we are still a small business, we can provide all of our customers with a high level of personalized service.”
The business plan seems to be working well for Boucherie Rhéaume, as the 30-employee company generates over $9-million in annual sales, topped only by the fact that it is growing anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent each year.

Reiser’s Vemag brand Lucky Linker is a very robust and complete all-in-one sausage-making machine.

Reiser’s Vemag brand Lucky Linker is a very robust and complete all-in-one sausage-making machine.

Nowadays, the former small corner butcher is providing over two-million pounds (~910,000 kilograms) of meat every a year, shipping its products mainly within the central region of the Quebec province, but has recently begun finding unique business opportunities ranging Rimouski to Montreal.
Thanks to this growth, Boucherie Rhéaume began examining its production line to create better efficiencies, looking at ways it could improve its food products which might also attract a wider customer base.
“I think it’s rare for small privately-owned companies as ours to be able to take the next step with automation—it’s a gamble and often that makes it a difficult decision to purchase what to us is a sophisticated piece of equipment,” notes Rhéaume.
Despite that, the folks at Boucherie Rhéaume aren’t big on gambling with the company’s fortunes, which was why making the correct choice of equipment was done under the utmost care and research when looking for a new thermorformer.

A Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume employee loads cuts of high-quality beef into the lower film pocket of the Reiser Repak RE15 thermoformer, with pre-printed clear plastic film supplied by Duropac.

Featuring a large 45-liter hopper, the Vemag brand Lucky Linker from Reiser can operate at a rate of 2,000-kilograms of meat per hour thanks to its double screw technology.

Purchasing a brand new Reiser Repak RE15 thermoformer in 2013, Boucherie Rhéaume had reason to be supremely confident in its purchase.
“We had previously purchased a Vemag brand slicer from Reiser,” says Rhéaume, “and it has given us full satisfaction.
“On the Repak RE15, the quality of the seal it provides has contributed to a longer shelf-life of our products,” says Rhéaume also admiring the speed it lends the entire production line.
He continues: “We also chose the Repak RE15 because while it gives us exactly what we need for our present needs, it also gives us the flexibility to increase our production rates as future demand requires.”
The Repak RE15 is constructed of stainless steel and is designed to provide excellent food safety even during the mundane operation of cleaning.
Designed with rounded edges, the Repak thermoformers are robustly built to avoid the accumulation of water, cleaners or particulates.
Other excellent features of the Reiser Repak, include:
• 
Easy access for maintenance;
• 
Quick and simple product changeover that helps save on labor costs while making on-time deliveries;
• 
A simple-to-use and operate HMI (human-machine interface) touchscreen;
• 
Flexibility to integrate the thermoformer with all brands of labeling and data coding print systems.
For Boucherie Rhéaume’s production needs, it runs the Repak RE15 at the rate of 10 cycles per minute, mainly utilizing it to package individual portions of meats weighing between 100 to 280-grams.

The clear film with a modicum of branding, provides the thermoformed meat packs with superb product visibility.

The clear film with a modicum of branding, provides the thermoformed meat packs with superb product visibility.

Tight Seal
According to Reiser, the Repak equipment utilizes a rapid air-forming method on all its machines, which provides the best distribution of the film into all areas, including corners to ensure that a perfect seal is possible.
This maximizing of film distribution actually allows operators to use a thinner film leading to substantial film savings.
Standard on the Repak RE15 is the specially-designed four-point lifting system on the forming and sealing dies that creates superb closing pressures that enables it to offer an extremely tight seal and thus package reliability.
Boucherie Rhéaume chose to use plastic film from food packaging specialists Duropac. After achieving a hermetic seal, the packages are hand-placed into corrugated cartons supplied by Norampac, a division of Cascades Canada.
The meat processor has three other production line machines from Reiser—a Vemag brand stuffer, a Seydelmann mixer-grinder, and a Vemag brand Lucky-Linker all-in-one sausage-making machine.

Line equipment workers at Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume find the Reiser Repak RE15 touchscreen easy-to-use.

Line equipment workers at Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume find the Reiser Repak RE15 touchscreen easy-to-use.

The Lucky Linker was purchased by Boucherie Rhéaume in November of 2013 to provide the meat processor with a quick and affordable manner of sausage production.
This one-piece machine consists of a vacuum filler with double screws, a built-in linker, a casing holder, one linker horn set, and one straight filling horn—all of which will enable the operator to create sausages via straight-filling, clipping, or linking collagen, cellulose, or natural casing.
While the Lucky Linker comes standard with a 45-liter hopper capacity and a see-through cover to easily determine how much product is left in it, Reiser points to the double screw technology as the heart of the filler.
Depending on the particulate size, it can operate at a maximum rate of 2,000-kilograms per hour, but can also handle larger meat chunks to produce the best possible product without smear and without worrying the operator about possible equipment damage.
The entire pumping system of the Lucky Linker is constructed from corrosion-free materials, while those all-important double mixing screws are made from stainless steel to give the machine a long life while providing the operator with even portioning.
While the Repak RE15 thermoformer was originally purchased to help it increase its production line output with automation, Boucherie Rhéaume has discovered that the time saved has allowed it to actually increase its capacity, which has allowed it to go after new customers—exploring new markets within the Trois-Rivières area, for example, and increasing its presence in Ottawa.
Boucherie Rhéaume is so pleased with the Reiser Repak thermoformer that they believe it will actually help them in achieving specific food-safety certification.
The company recently began the process of achieving the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)-certification of food safety, a key achievement for the meats processor as it chases after new markets.
“We think we will achieve this accreditation by the end of 2014,” says Rhéaume noting that the increased automation and attention to food safety will be key factors in attaining the next level for Boucherie Rhéaume, now no longer that little butcher shop on the corner.

 

Featuring a large 45-liter hopper (inset), the Vemag brand Lucky Linker from Reiser can operate at a rate of 2,000-kilograms of meat per hour thanks to its double screw technology.

Line equipment workers at Boucherie Gaétan Rhéaume find the Reiser Repak RE15 touchscreen easy-to-use.

 

Featuring a large 45-liter hopper (inset), the Vemag brand Lucky Linker from Reiser can operate at a rate of 2,000-kilograms of meat per hour thanks to its double screw technology.

 

 


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