Sensitive noses and advanced technology ensure that Iggesund Paperboard’s products for food packaging meet the high standards demanded by customers.
The focus of this lies with the Laboratory for Sensory and Chemical Analysis, popularly known as the Smell and Taste Lab. Housed in a red brick building in Iggesund, it might not look like much. But the white-painted rooms are the setting for an unusual kind of work that is critical for the quality of the end product. The lab checks that all the paperboard leaving Iggesund Paperboard’s three factories does not impart unwanted tastes and smells. And if it does, then this is where the problem is tracked down.
“We sell reassurance to our customers,” explains Torgny Ljungberg who, with 23 years under his belt, is an experienced member of the four-person team sometimes referred to as ‘The Guardians of Good Taste’. Helping with the sampling, measurement and analysis are advanced analysis instruments and computers. There is also a panel of testers who regularly get to smell and taste for deviations and unwanted tastes. To qualify for the panel, they have to be able to separate out different tastes and put their sensory impressions into words.
“It’s great fun,” says Jenny Mangseth from Hudiksvall, who has just become a full panel member and now visits the lab every two weeks. Bars of chocolate are stacked up in a fridge. The chocolate is used to bind and identify any volatile flavourings that may arise in contact with the paperboard. Cocoa butter and soft white bread are other products that are used.
DID YOU KNOW... After a shipment of paperboard was rejected, it was discovered that it had been loaded into a container previously used for aniseed, which then flavoured the product for which the end customer used the paperboard.
Sara Jonsson is a development engineer at the unit. She explains that it is often not the actual paperboard that is at fault. Instead it is the interaction of numerous different substances that can cause an unwanted smell or taste.
“All sorts of things can happen when plastics, dyes, adhesives and other chemicals come into contact with each other,” says Sara. “It’s our task to find out what is happening and why.”
According to Torgny Ljungberg, the effect of packaging on its contents has been a hot topic ever since paperboard began being used to package food.
“In the 1970s, when customers started demanding higher standards, it became important to have in-house expertise in analysing smell and taste,” he explains. “The toughest customers? Cigarette manufacturers, without a doubt. Their customers smoke the same cigarettes year after year and are therefore hugely sensitive to any change.”
Facts about the workplace
The Laboratory for Sensory and Chemical Analysis is located at Iggesund Mill and is part of the factory’s R&D department. The team is also known as ‘The Guardians of Good Taste’. No. of employees: Four. Capacity: 130–150 smell and taste analyses are conducted each year. There are also several thousand instrumental analyses of both paperboard and pulp. Operations: The laboratory analyses the raw materials used in production, plus pulp, coatings and binders. Finished paperboard from the mills in Iggesund, Strömsbruk and Workington is analysed on a regular basis.
TEXT: MATS WIGARDT