Eassssssy Does It!

By Bryan Salvage
Senior Editor
A growing number of consumers expect meat and poultry packaging designed with easy-to-open-and-close features — no excuses tolerated.
When it comes to convenient packaging for meat and poultry products, consumers never had it so good — thanks to the variety of easy-open-and-close features hitting the marketplace in recent years.
“Resealability provides such a mechanism of convenience and portability for the package — whether it’s a single-use or multi-use package,” says Steve Morris, director of corporate packaging design and research, Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, AR. “Are there some food safety and freshness features that come out of resealability? Sure. Moisture retention, containment of the food, and resistance to contamination once the package is open are all factors that benefit the consumer.”
Suppliers responding
Technology providers are tracking the trends, and all are responding with products to meet consumer demand.
“We see an increase in use of recloseable features in the frozen and refrigerated meat and chicken packaging,” says Thomas Winter, product manager, Fresh-Lock® Zipper, Alcoa Consumer Products, Presto Products Co., Appleton, WI. Presto Products provides recloseable zippers for the flexible packaging of meat and poultry products.
 “Product freshness and consumer convenience are the key reasons for this trend,” Winter adds.
The opportunity for fresh meat is easy-open features, and demand is increasing for this feature for value-added products, too, says another insider.
“Many pre-cooked items are in easy-open packages, and many of these products use a primary and secondary package — including sleeves or an overwrap, which prevents in-store tampering,” says Karl Deily, vice president of food packaging, Cryovac/Sealed Air Corp., Duncan, SC. “Easy-open packaging is high on the list of what consumers indicate they want.”
Cryovac sells bags, shrink film, lidding materials for trays, and laminant materials that run on form/fill/seal equipment for products like sliced luncheon meat or even fluid packaging.
“Shrink is usually for appearance and merchandising, and it’s harder to put a recloseable feature on that product and still maintain the level of merchandiseability,” he says.
Regarding recloseable features, this is being seen more in multi-serve type packages.
“You’re seeing the trend of companies putting simple thermoformed packages in a Tupperware-style container like Oscar Mayer and several others have done,” Deily points out. “I think you’ll see a variety of recloseable features available in such products —whether it’s a zipper or snap-on lid — a pressure sealant where you basically apply pressure to the easy-open area and the material will reclose.”
Cryovac can put almost any zipper on its traditional laminant-type materials—whether a thermoform laminant like a bologna package or a form/fill/seal package, Deily says.
“We are also developing and evolving some of the sealant technologies,” he adds. “We’re working with some additional polymer technologies that will allow you to reseal a package with pressure multiple times…twelve-plus uses with a tact seal. We currently don’t do this in North America, but we have also provided a tape on the package so you can fold the open end of the package over and use a tape—somewhat like what some coffee packages are still using.”
Cryovac plans to introduce an easy-open laminant package developed in another part of the world to North America.
“We’re in the very early stages of test-marketing it,” Deily says. “It’s basically an easy-peel pressure-resealable package that does not use the green adhesive.”
Somewhere down the road, there may be a resurgence of easy-open modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) in case ready, Deily adds. Case ready has not used easy-open technology due to the fear consumers may open such products in-store but then walk away with an unopened package.
Consumer-driven demand
Demand for easy-open-and-close features is increasing and is being driven by consumer acceptance, says Anthony Catino, director, VersaPack, Fair Lawn, NJ. It offers a complete processing system called the Advantage Line, which consists of packaging machinery and materials. On the materials side, VersaPack offers a complete line of SCR pouches with various barriers: foil, aluminum oxide, or silicon dioxide coated, EVOH, and PVDC.
“All of these pouches can be fitted with a Zip-Pak Retort zipper,” he says.
Several months ago an agreement was reached for VersaPack to provide SCR pouches exclusively with Zip-Pak’s retort zipper. Low-cost, photo-quality rotogravure printing is also offered, which further enhances graphics.
“The new slide-zipper feature you see on many packages in the marketplace is something we’ve just added to our portfolio, and we offer this in addition to our traditional press-to-close [PTC] zipper,” he adds.
The PTC zipper is widely accepted and offered on the smallest pouches that don’t ready need it, Catino continues. This demonstrates that the cost is low enough for the feature to be added even to the most unlikely of packages. In contrast, the slide-zipper feature is more expensive and will be used on higher-margin products. Several months ago, VersaPack made an agreement with Zip-Pak to utilize their zipper material exclusively.
“We have a few applications in place, and we anticipate greater interest in their newest zipper material: the retort zipper,” he says. “We expect to see new packages replacing the current refrigerated home meal replacement [HMR] products, canned products, and other over-packaged, fully cooked products.”
Demand for easy-open-and- close features is “absolutely increasing,” says Larry Rebodos, marketing and converter licensing manager for Hefty Slide Rite division of Pactiv Corp., Lake Forest, IL.
“We’re going to see a number of applications in the deli-meats segment before year’s end,” he says. “Stemming off of [our] success with Hormel Deli Meats, Slide Rite and other slider reclosealable systems will find their way onto more prepackaged deli meat packaging.” NP
Technology providers in this article include:
• Cryovac/Sealed Air Corp., phone (864) 433-2000 or (800) 845-3456, fax (864) 433-2134, e-mail cryovac.mid@sealedair.com, or visit www.cryovac.com
• Pactiv Corp., phone (847) 482-2288 or (888) 828-2850, fax (847) 482-4564, or visit www.pactiv.com
• Presto Products Co., phone (920) 738-1344 or (800) 265-0750, fax (920) 738-1347, e-mail fresh-lock@alcoa.com, or visit www.Fresh-Lock.com
• VersaPack, phone (201) 797-7516, fax (201) 797-7417, e-mail acatino@versapack.com, or visit www.verspack.com
Easy-release netting
Packaging Concepts & Materials (PCM), Greenville, SC, manufacturers a full line of netting products for further processed meats, as well as cook-in bags, retort bags, and soup and sauce bags. Cubic Net is the company’s newest product.
“One major demand in netting is the [easy] release of the netting to reduce tears, produce fewer No. Twos, increase yields, and improve profitability,” says Eric Thomas, president of Solutions LLC, who handles communications and marketing support for PCM.
“PCM has come up with some formulas that makes it possible to transfer extremely attractive color, get good release of the net, but most important it is done with a moist and tender rind,” Thomas says.
For more information, contact PCM at (800) 424-7264, e-mail solutionsllc@ charter.net, or visit www.packageconcepts.com