Today’s chub packaging simplifies handling for consumers and on the packaging line. When research showed consumers want to minimize contact with raw meat, Cargill added an easy-peel feature to its Our Certified brand of ground beef in one-pound chubs. Launched in November 2016, the “No Mess Opening” provides easy-open peel points along the longitudinal seal of the cylindrical pack.

“The traditional chub packaging has not been modified for a long time, so this is the first major change to the packaging in years,” says Katie Blick-White, brand manager for Cargill’s Our Certified ground beef line. She adds, “We’re listening to consumers and want to provide convenience for their home cooking experience, while also maintaining our reputation for delivering high-quality, fresh, nutritious and flavorful meat. Limiting the need to handle raw ground beef also enhances the food-safety aspect of meal preparation.”

Cargill’s Our Certified ground beef chubs offer a 21-day refrigerated shelf life. Unopened chubs can be stored in the freezer for up to six months without repackaging. With chub packaging, however, it’s easy to slice off a section to create portions for cooking or freezing. In some cases, cut points are marked on the film to simplify portioning.

Barrier films help extend refrigerated shelf life for ground beef and other protein products such as ground turkey, sausage, chorizo, salami and taco meat. The chub format also is used for pet food and other food and nonfood products. The films typically consist of multiple layers, which provide sealability and puncture resistance as well as barrier properties. Common chub packaging materials include polyethylene, polyvinylidene chloride, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate. A foil layer also may be specified. Film may be clear, white or printed. The latter is typically chosen for case-ready products. 

Easier handling on chub packaging lines depends on robotic case packers to automate case loading. The systems feature one or more delta robots, vacuum-equipped end-of-arm tooling (end effectors), stainless steel construction and washdown-compatible, hygienic design. End effectors can be designed to pick a series of multiple chubs and then place the group into the case. End effectors can be changed quickly to handle different chub sizes, counts and weights. The robotic case loaders can be set up to index cases for placement of a single layer or dual layers of chubs and are particularly well-suited for preparing family packs that include multiple one-pound chubs. Advanced electronics and software provide superior motion control, safety and connectivity for the Internet of things (IoT) and remote diagnostics. The electronics and software also maximize flexibility and simplify operator training and troubleshooting. 

With recent package and equipment innovations, it’s no surprise that use of chub packaging is expanding. Several factors are at play, according to Chub Packaging Market — Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 – 2024, a market study by Transparency Market Research. Driving forces include an upsurge in ground beef consumption because it allows quick preparation of protein-rich meals. Demand for chubs also is growing due to the format’s ability to deliver extended shelf life. Changing lifestyles are another influencer, particularly in developing economies where incomes are rising. In addition, chub packaging costs less than tray packaging, and its lighter weight means lower supply chain costs and sustainability benefits.

The latest designs of chub packaging machines also enhance sustainability and reduce costs. For example, positioning clips in the shortest space possible conserves film and produces an attractive package. Forming clips online from rollstock cuts costs versus preformed clips. Filling speeds range from 15 to approximately 150 chubs per minute. Many models offer a choice of sealing options: heated air, radio frequency or extrusion. Common chub sizes include one-, two-, three-, five- and 10-pound, but heavier weights are available.  NP