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Ready Meals and Packaging Machine: All-in-one Guide

The food and consumer goods market is nowadays expanding and growing at an unprecedented speed. While the quantity of the total market share is surging, the packaging of the products consumed tends to appear in a great variety of shapes, forms, and styles.

We cover in this article the packaging of ready meals, and prepared foods, the sleeve packaging, and why it is the best fit.


  • The packaging of ready meals
  • Why sleeve packaging is preferred for ready meals?
  • What are the packaging machines to pack ready meals with sleeves?

Origin of Ready Meals and What’s Now?

The history of ready meal and prepared food can trace back to the 1950s when the American company Swanson made the foundation of the modern ready meal concept. The company was left with a huge surplus of turkey in 1953 after thanksgiving that year which was troublesome to deal with.

The genius idea rushed into their mind to get them packed in aluminum trays just like those foods served on the airlines. Such a new form of a meal at that time was accepted by the market with great success in sales volume made – allegedly 10 million sold in the very first year. (* Cited from BBC, The rise of the ready meal, 16 Feb 2013, Denise Vinterman)

Ready meals packaging has currently diversified into various styles.

Most of them are loaded in a plastic tray or preformed plastic containers which are sealed by film and then wrapped by sleeve cardboard.

The production technologies have also made it possible to preserve ready-to-eat foods in the long term.

Comparing Pre-glued sleeve and wrap-around sleeve

Why Carton Sleeve is Popular with Read Meals?

Focusing on consumer convenience, ready-to-eat meals have been going through the roof in terms of popularity. Things are ready in a while just with a microwave or even without it, and that meal is at immediate disposal for enjoyment, no matter if it is the break during office our or a long-distance trip on a mountain bike in the middle of a National Park or discovery down into a snow cave.

sealing and cardboard sleeve wrapping on ready mealTake a tour through the supermart and pay attention to the articles on the shelves of food, you will soon notice that sleeve packaging is commonly used for ready meals – which are frequently loaded in a tray, sealed by film, and then over-wrapped by a piece of paperboard sleeve. In the consumer products industry and especially ready-to-eat meals, we can definitely see its omnipresence.


Why not the traditional carton boxes?

Trays are sometimes of round-edge and thus not suitable for traditional carton boxes, which even if they are fitted, would cause some extra redundant packaging material and make the packaging complex to tear off.

Single Tray Carton Sleeve Packaging

Sleeves, on the contrary, keep the secondary packaging as succinct as possible and serve as a sustainable paper packaging.

Rather than the carton boxes that come with flaps and tucks to open, the sleeves can get doffed easily.

Manufacturers can also make avail of their conspicuous appearance to customize their own package design to maximize their branding performance.


What are the advantages of sleeve packaging?

As a common trait of packaging, ready-to-eat meals are usually carried by a plastic tray and then covered by plastic. A common method to add further space for printing is to wrap the tray further with a piece of cardboard sleeve, such as also to give protection as the secondary packaging to the package.

Single Serve Entrees and Cardboard Sleeve Packaging

The ready meal packaging must address the issues regarding preventing meals contained from contamination as well as maintain the package in an easy-to-tear way yet still lend enough space for advertising. Meanwhile, the environmental impact is another concern to address that printing and paper materials used should be kept at a minimum level as well as to adopt reusable, recyclable, or compostable materials to ensure sustainability.

Principally, the advantages of sleeve packaging are as follows:


environmental friendlyCost-Saving and Effective in Printing

When it comes to printing the packaging sleeves take less space than
those carton boxes with 6 sides. That is to say, fewer packaging printing
materials are used. And in another word, it is environmental-friendly.


wide applicationWide Application in Various Industries

Any products, regardless of their shape and style and even those of round shapes
such as the soap can be wrapped by custom packaging sleeves. It doesn’t matter
in which industry the product is, you can just pack them with your own sleeve
design to maximize the branding performance.


easy packagingFacilitate the Packaging Process
The packaging process and automation of the packaging sleeves are far easier
and quicker than that of carton boxes which have closure panels, dust flaps,
and tuck flaps. The packaging automation of the sleeves calls for the wraparound
sleever which takes up less space than what the cartoner does.


BrandingEfficient Branding Performance
The packaging sleeves tend to be more eye-catching and effective in
branding in comparison with 6 sides carton boxes. Simple customization
on the sleeve can go a long way for catching attention.




What are the packaging Machines for Ready Meal Sleeving?

A carton sleeve is the most commonly seen form of a package of prepared and ready-to-eat meals. The tray in which the containment is loaded is overlapped by a piece of cardboard and sealed by melt glue on the bottom. Taking a glance at the products available on the shelf in the supermarket, you will for sure find the majority of them are packed in this way.

There are also several alternatives of packaging automation solutions for carton sleeving. Generally, they are:

  • cartoning machine for pre-glued sleeve carton

An end-load cartoning machine that applies pre-folded and pre-glue sleeve blanks and insert them by the horizontal open-end

cartoner for trays packaging - ELITER Packaging Machinery

  • Sleeve wrap-around cartoner

An end-load cartoning cartoning machine applies unglued flat-sleeve blanks. The wrap-around process is completed gradually along the path flow on the machine.

  • Wrap-Around Sleever

rotray carton feeder

Wrap-around sleever is a specifically designed machine for sleeve packaging, featured by the process of placing flat sleeves on the containers and completing the closure on the inferior part.

Let’s find the differences between them, as well as the pros and cons of each one mentioned.

End-Load Cartoner for Pre-glued Sleeve

Pre-glued sleeves are loaded in the carton magazine of the cartoner, the erector opens the sleeve with its horizontal ends open from which the product is inserted by the insertor.

End Load Cartoning Machine Working Sequence

The process is no different than a normal working sequence on a horizontal end-load cartoning machine. Except that with the pre-glued sleeve cartoner, it is not necessary to install any mechanism to fold and close the flaps and tuck panels.

Now that pre-glued sleeve cartoner resembles a horizontal end-load cartoner. Carton (Sleeve) blanks are erected after which products are loaded by the end side. A pre-glued sleeve cartoning machine, just as its name refers to, requires that the cardboard sleeves come pre-glued rather than being flat blanks.

pre-glued sleever

Sleeves used for pre-glued sleeving should come with a weakness line (tear line) for the purpose that they can be folded into blanks and then erected into carton sleeves for end load.

The die-line may affect the visual appeal of the packaging and also probably its stability.

Another problem with pre-glued sleeving is that it may not be an ideal choice for multipack sleeve packaging. Since the more containers to be loaded, the more difficult it is to end-load them into the sleeve. In such a circumstance it would be better to turn to Wrap-Around Sleever.

Generally, the features of pre-glued sleeving are as follows:

  • The sleeve must be pre-glued and thus there will be a tear line (weakness line)
  • Ideal for single-container sleeving and may not be a good choice for multipack sleeving


Sleeve Wrap-around Cartoner

Alternatively, it is also possible to apply flat-sleeve blanks on a horizontal end-load cartoner, given the prerequisite that the machine should to customized to some extent.

In fact, the wrap-around sleeve cartoner is just an end-load cartoning machine that applies flat sleeve blanks, load either individual packs or multipacks, with glue seam on the superior part of the package.

wrap-around sleeve cartoning machine

Wrap-Around Sleever

The wrap-around packaging approach on a sleever is rather more of the”state-of-the-art”. For the reason of food safe serving standards, wrap-around sleever tends to be built on robust AISI SUS304 structure and must comply with some certain ingress protection levels.

Sleeve Packaging Machine for Single Serve-Entrees

Wrap-around Sleever is an advanced cardboard sleeve packaging machines are ideal for both individual packs or multipacks that overwrap them with flat sleeve blanks and with glue seam on the inferior part of the package.

Wrap-Around Sleeve is a kind of packaging machine specially designed for sleeve wraparound packaging. Cardboard sleeves do not have to be pre-glued but just only in form of flat blanks. carton wrap around sleeving machine

The sleever, installed with an infeed system if necessary, can group containers into multipack, place the sleeve on the grouped containers, fold two side panels around them and seal the sleeve on the bottom with hot melt glue.

Advantages of sleever are that it outstrips pre-glued sleever in terms of speed (generally), convenience (sleeves do not have to be pre-glued), performance, and stability of packaging.

As follow we conclude the features of Wrap-Around Sleever:

  • Sleeves only have to be in flat blanks
  • Applicable for both single container and multipack (cluster)
  • Higher performance and better stability of packaging formed

Pros and Cons, and Differences between each of them

While pre-glued cartoning machine and sleeve wrap around cartoning machine are bascially the same thing built on a normal horizontal end-load cartoner, we can simplify this question to: What is the difference between cartoner and sleever?

A conclusion is given as below for your quick review.

TypesPre-glued SleeveCartonerSleeverSleeve Wrap Around Cartoner
SleevePre-glued sleevesUnglued Flat Sleeve BlanksUnglued Flat Sleeve Blanks
PackageSingle PackagingSingle Package and MultipacksSingle Package and Multipacks


Discover our Full Range of Sleeve Packaging Machines

At ÉLITER Packaging Machinery – a Huaneng Company, we offer full range of cartoning and packaging machines for wrap-around sleeve packaging:
  • Pre-glued Sleeve Cartoning Machine
  • Wrap-Around Sleeve Cartoning Machine
  • Fully Automatic Wrap-Around Sleever
Please contact us for more details
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Tel.: +86 139 588 12103

sleeve cardboard machine

About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery