Growing consumer acceptance of online grocery shopping and the desire to keep food fresher longer have boosted demand for vacuum packaging. Case-ready vacuum packaging offers marketers distribution and storage flexibility from grocery store shelves to e-commerce, fresh or frozen. We spoke with Ryan Vessell, vice president, pricing and business analytics, Portioned Protein Innovations, Tyson Fresh Meats, about key attributes vacuum packaging offers marketers of meat products.
What efficiencies does employing case-ready vacuum packaging offer retailers that other packaging styles do not?
Using case-ready vacuum packaging products will help streamline operations for retailers with no in-house fabrication. It minimizes the need for additional product handling and helps extend shelf life. Ways these efficiencies can help include reduced waste, employees spending more time with shoppers, an increase in food safety, a decrease in backroom labor costs, and an increase in product assortment and sales.
How does case-ready vacuum packaging stack up against other packaging options for its sustainability/carbon footprint?
According to RTS’ Food Waste in America 2022 study, American grocery stores throw out approximately 30% of food in their stores due to spoilage or surpassed sell-by dates. Case-ready vacuum packaging not only has the benefits of precision and uniformity but can extend shelf life and freshness, resulting in less food waste.
According to Sustainable Brands in its 2021 study on smarter packaging, switching to vacuum thermoformed or vacuum-skin packaging can extend the typical seven- to 10-day shelf life of meat to about three weeks.
Tyson Foods uses a proprietary blend of natural flavorings that significantly extends shelf life without affecting quality and flavor. For example, it can extend the shelf life of boneless beef to 28 days and boneless pork to 25.
This packaging format offers shoppers the ultimate freshness, with the flexibility to cook products right away or easily freeze for later. Reducing waste is good for business and the environment, as it allows you to streamline costs and limit materials sent to landfills.
What types of meat/poultry products is case-ready vacuum packaging best suited for?
While whole muscle cuts and grinds are popular case-ready options as any fresh meat or poultry product can be produced as case ready. Consumers have noted that this type of packaging for steaks implies high quality*. Easy-peel or tear-notch openings provide no-mess handling while providing extended shelf life. This can be an added bonus when using value-added marinades for flavor and tenderness. It’s a welcome, straightforward point of entry to alternative packaging and a potential boost to food waste reduction.
Brick packs are ideal for fixed-weight products, particularly ground proteins. This packaging meets shoppers’ demand for key drivers such as “freezer ready,” “convenient storage” and “ideal for thawing/defrosting.”
*Tyson Fresh Meats, Packaging Study, January 14, 2020
What food safety and shelf life advantages does case ready offer?
One of the biggest attractions to case-ready vacuum packaging is its ability to increase food safety. Oxygen is the chief source of product deterioration. With case-ready vacuum packaging, the oxygen is removed from the bag, and the product remains fresh and sealed, resulting in a longer shelf life.
On its website, SealedAir states that when vacuum packaged occurs under anaerobic conditions, shelf life can be extended up to three to five times longer than meats cut and packaged in-store.
Additionally, case-ready vacuum packaging minimizes overall product handling from processing to at-home preparation. When compared to overwrap, vacuum packaging addresses the key concern of leakage. Case-ready vacuum packaging is a leak-proof solution to offer no-mess handling. Fixed-weight packages offer customization to prepare the amount needed, ultimately reducing food waste.
What types of on-pack branding/promotional opportunities does case ready offer?
Case-ready vacuum packaging offers a compact design for consumers to easily identify and retailers to easily stock. The state-of-the-art materials used in this packaging can be printed with a brand’s product claims, nutritional benefits, and preparation tips. This packaging has great durability and a higher-quality presentation.
According to the Tyson Fresh Meats 2020 packaging study, 34% percent of consumers believe vacuum sealed on steaks implies the meat is high quality, a number significantly higher than any other packaging type. Tyson Foods offers customers branded vacuum packaged products with both their Chairman’s Reserve and Open Prairie Natural* Meats brands.
Perception is a significant driver in the shopper experience. Something as small as shifting packaging type can shift consumers’ attitudes while efficiently managing resources.
*Minimally processed. No artificial ingredients.