Tabasco Cartoners

McIlhenny Company, Manufacturer of TABASCO® Sauce, To Replace 60+ Year Old R.A Jones Cartoners Currently In Operation

“Make it Better and Make it Last” are part of McIlhenny Company’s core values. And with more than 155 years of pepper expertise, the family-owned and operated company, famously known for its TABASCO® Brand products, continues to demonstrate those fundamentals.

The legendary TABASCO® Original Red Sauce was invented on Avery Island, Louisiana, where McIlhenny Company continues to produce the iconic brand. A household and restaurant staple around the world, TABASCO® Sauce is sold in more than 195 countries and territories and labeled in more than 36 languages and dialects.

TABASCO® Brand prides itself on listening to its customers’ needs – constantly innovating and experimenting with new flavors and products to carry on its legacy. To date, TABASCO® Brand has nine unique core pepper sauces, offered in a range of bottles and sizes that are neatly packaged in a box.

Therefore, when it comes to packaging equipment, the company looks for flexibility, efficiency, and speed in order to meet consumer demand.

McIlhenny first installed R.A Jones cartoners at their Louisiana facility in 1968; they are still in use today. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain disruptions, McIlhenny Company began to look to new paperboard suppliers to ensure adequate supply.  

Changing suppliers introduced a new set of challenges and created some inefficiencies with the older equipment, mainly brought upon by the need for continuous machine adjustments. So, in anticipation of the equipment’s 60th anniversary, McIlhenny decided it might be time for retirement.

Resorting to its “Make it Better and Make it Last” principles, McIlhenny returned to R.A Jones, a global leader in the design and manufacturing of primary and secondary packaging machinery, to upgrade its production lines with four new Legacy CS-600 ultra high-speed Horizontal End Load Cartoners.

Fast-paced Operations Require Well Matched Equipment
Currently, the facility operates 5 days a week, 2 shifts a day, year-round, with all products made, packed, and shipped from Avery Island.

One of our cartoners has put an estimated 1.25 to 2 billion bottles in a carton over more than five decades,” said Mathieu Gélineau, Director of Engineering at McIlhenny Company. “We see that as a true testament to the quality of the equipment and the support from R.A Jones over the years.”

Although the original machines from the ‘60s were still operating, certain lines could only run certain products, limiting McIlhenny’s flexibility and line usage. Now, faced with potential material inefficiencies, the company elected to address the problem sooner rather than later.

“We were thrilled when McIlhenny approached us about modernizing their packaging lines,” said Marty Bechtel, Sales Director – R.A Jones. “The Jones’ machines had served the company well over the years, but like anything, wear and tear began to show their age. Older equipment can lend itself to increased maintenance needs and unwanted downtime, so by upgrading their cartoners to the Legacy CS-600, McIlhenny can significantly reduce unnecessary costs associated with both.”

“Having equipment with an improved carton feeding system, which allows the line to run a variety of carton materials, including sustainable paperboard alternatives, is critical for boosting overall performance and delivering a consistent product worldwide,” Gélineau continued. “As we look to integrate new packaging equipment, speed and flexibility are essential, as we offer various products in a variety of materials and sizes. Ultimately, we want to look at the big picture and ensure that the machines powering our production lines are helping us meet the company’s vision in the future.

Another area McIlhenny was considering was changeover time.
The legacy machines can take multiple hours to undergo a changeover, requiring a few hours to dial in before ramping up to a good, consistent run speed.

The new fleet will be outfitted with R.A Jones’ Acc-U-Change™ solution, which allows for more efficient and repeatable changeovers. This option also better controls the integral variables of the machine, ensuring that operators can easily change and minimize the risk of a costly mistake.

Beyond the Build: Why OEM Relationships Matter
R.A Jones has been in the business of packaging equipment and machinery for more than a century. However, McIlhenny didn’t just come back to R.A Jones because of the OEM’s historic machine quality and industry expertise. From the beginning of the five decade’s long relationship, R.A Jones has consistently provided them strategic consultation and guidance– starting when McIlhenny purchased its first cartoner over 55 years ago.

The R.A Jones Legacy line is a high-speed bottle and box cartoner and is designed for pharmaceutical applications, resulting in a smaller machine pitch and footprint.

The reason why R.A Jones recommended the Legacy series was due to the pharmaceutical-style design, which provides sanitary benefits to plant operations. A 3-foot inline bottle screw helps stabilize the product, enabling McIlhenny to run speeds of up to 425 bottles per minute for its 2-, 5- and 12-oz. sizes.

Additionally, R.A Jones also provided McIlhenny with key input when conceptualizing how to package the product. Before construction of the machines, there were numerous discussions surrounding the orientation of the product to ensure that when it was pushed into the box, it would align with the graphics on the outside as well as into the cartoner.

“They’re world leaders in cartoners like we’re world leaders in pepper sauce,” says Gélineau. “Working with a manufacturer that stands behind its product, even if it’s 50 years old, and still gives support and sells parts is what makes the difference.”

R.A Jones is currently building the four new Legacy CS-600 cartoners at its Covington, Kentucky facility and is expected to ship the equipment to McIlhenny in Q4 of 2024.

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