In today’s more-modern frozen-food aisles, manufacturers have demonstrated a willingness to offer new products in innovative formats beyond traditional boxes. For example, standup, reclosable pouches and bags filled with frozen uncooked and cooked meat portions, from chicken breasts to hamburger patties to full meals, are adding eye appeal to the freezer case and convenience to supermarket shoppers, while still maintaining the highest quality possible.

And consumers are responding to the efforts of processors. According, the American frozen-food market is a $29 billion industry. Frozen pizza and ready-made meals represent 41 percent of all frozen food sales, or approximately $11.8 billion. Frozen dinners or entrées are worth $6.1 billion with the single-serve sub-segment valued at about $3.7 billion.

To take advantage of that rich market, processors need to be able to adapt quickly to shifting consumer evaluations of the quality of frozen meal, according to the Hartman Group white paper called “Redefining Quality in Premium Frozen Dinners and Entrées.”

The report says that consumers are increasingly driven by the desire to maximize quality-of-life experiences as well as maintaining their health, while flavor and freshness can override cost and convenience.

Consumers associate freshness with minimal processing and the use of as few ingredients as possible. The report suggests that seemingly unnecessary ingredients indicate “over-processing” and consumers want the ingredient list to be easy to understand and “real” (such as sea salt or organic basil).

Making it easy

The need for convenience can’t be ignored, however. Custom pouches can be made to any size that fits in a microwave. Customized film structures are available with high- or low-barrier properties. They can even be used in retort applications.

These pouches are used in frozen and in fresh applications for prepared-meal items, soups, vegetables, meats, sauces and gravies. They are microwaved when sealed and have a small, sealed hole in the pouch that opens during the microwaving process allowing the steam to escape from the pouch. The precise location and size of the hole is determined by the size of the overall pouch and is engineered specifically for each size.

Resealable pouches designed for the merchandising of hot foods — such as rotisserie chicken — have also become quite popular. The convenience of such products has lead to the development of award-winning packages like Perdue Bourbon Chicken, which was recently honored at the Flexible Packaging Association’s 2008 FPA Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards.

That particular product uses color separations and strong material to create a miniature billboard for the flavored chicken pieces. The functionality of the pouch, allowing easy-to-open-and-close access, adds to the appeal.

The Bourbon Chicken highlights all of the attributes found in good freezer packaging. To appeal to today’s busy consumers, packaging not only must be attractive and protect your product, but also must be easy to open — and, increasingly, recloseable.

It marks a half century of supplying flexible packaging solutions to the food industry including the fresh and prepared meats, suppliers provide these markets with a number of packaging types — everything from pouches, rollstock, shrink films, bags and more — as well as complete processing systems — equipment manufacturing and service to structural design and packaging engineering.