Processors are signing on to offering reclosable packages to meet consumer demand.
Marketing meat products in today’s tough marketplace is all about differentiation and making your product stand out amongst the competition. It’s about helping the consumer understand that you are not offering them a commodity item that they can get anywhere. It’s about adding value.
Aside from changing the seasonings, marinades, cuts and other elements of the actual protein in the package, one hot alternative in the industry right now is offering reclosable, resealable packaging for meat products, giving consumers the added comfort that their meat will be fresh and stay fresh longer, sealed in a nice, air-tight package.
According to suppliers of reclosable packaging, the meat industry is beginning to see the benefits of this type of packaging in greater percentages nowadays.
“Consumers are willing to spend a little more for the ease and convenience of a slider package,” says Steve Meli, national accounts manager for Pactiv Corporation. “In addition, consumer surveys have shown that easy reclosability for flexible packaging is highly desired. Slider ranks the highest in flexible packaging.”
With consumers jumping on the reclosable-package bandwagon, there are many options available to processors who want to incorporate such a technology into their operation. Yet, just because the popularity of reclosable packaging is popular today doesn’t mean it’s a brand new technology, explains Robert E. Hogan, director, international sales and marketing for Zip-Pak.
“Sliced luncheon meats started to transition to Zip-Pak resealable packaging nearly 20 years ago, and most recently have upgraded to ZIP-PAK Slider™ technology, arguably the easiest way to open and reseal a package,” he says. Today, lunch meats, sausages, bratwursts and individually quick-frozen (IQF) value-added products can be easily packaged in reclosable packages.
Bill Gregory, director of sales and marketing for Versapack, Inc., explains that reclosable packaging technology now has advanced enough to include many of the above products without huge challenges. That technology allows for better presentation as well.
“Many items may be stacked automatically into a zip bag, for instance sausage and hamburger patties,” he says. “We have the technology now for our vertical Propac systems [to do those things].”
Meli adds that sliders and zippers also give consumers the presentation that product inside is safe and sound.
“They want to maintain visual tamper evidence, which is typically a header on the package,” he explains. “Therefore a complete seal around the header has been the preferred style of package from the processors. The slider placed inside the header provides the retail consumer confidence that the slider itself has not been touched until they open the package.”
Zip-Pak offers a similar tamper-evident technology in its zippers and sliders, explains Hogan. “Though the zipper profiles are quite similar, in some applications we add a tamper-evident feature on the flange, and we have versions for sealing to DuPont’s Surlyn sealant layer,” he says.
Processors who are looking at incorporating reclosable packaging in their processing lines may think that the installation of the equipment to perform these processes could be time-consuming or costly, but typically, it takes only minimal rework of machinery with the cooperation of all the suppliers involved to make reclosable packaging a part of the plant.
“Many types of packaging machinery can be modified to add a Zip-Pak resealable feature,” says Hogan. “Zip-Pak has close relationships with leading OEMs to enable the supplier’s engineering team to offer technical support during the installation process, helping to smooth the transition into a new package.” Hogan adds that Zip-Pak’s equipment division also works with processors to retrofit existing equipment. Zip-Pak’s only focus is to develop zipper profiles and the methods by which they can be incorporated into flexible packaging, he says.
Meli explains that the extent of the changes will depend on whether the processor wants to manufacture the product internally in form/fill/seal operations or go a pre-made route. “Pactiv typically gets involved in the early stages of the project and can help make recommendations concerning equipment and process,” he says. “Pactiv recognizes the importance of applying the slider with your current equipment without adding additional scrap or slowing down your lines.”
Pre-made standup pouches and wicketed polyethylene bags, which would require minor, but necessary changes to bag-fillers, can be acquired through manufacturers licensed by Pactiv. The company also works with form/fill/seal equipment manufacturers to facilitate processors’ needs for reclosable bags on their equipment.
Versapack also works with other suppliers to meet the desires of its processor base, says Gregory. “The question is always return on investment and/or justification. In most cases, it is more economical to replace the line, in consideration of new marketing or product launches, new product offerings and old product repositioning,” he says. “Most of the older lines lack the required flexibility.”
Gregory continues that Versapack’s Propac vertical packaging system is flexible enough to switch operations efficiently and effectively from a slide/zip gusseted bag to a poly, tri-laminate printed foodservice pack. NP