July 1, 2006
By Shonda Dudlicek
Innovative meat and poultry packaging materials offer multiple benefits, including extended shelf life, food-safety assurances, brand loyalty and visual enticements.
Consumers are willing to pay more for packaging that ensures freshness, according to a recent consumer survey conducted for DuPont by Washington, D.C.-based Ipsos Public Affairs.
In fact, the survey of more than 1,000 adults nationwide reportedly found that 72 percent are willing to pay at least 10 cents more for a $3 item with improved packaging that ensures freshness.
“Eating on the run while driving or shopping, multitasking, having no time to cook, and [dealing with] divergent family schedules preclude set mealtimes,” Huston Keith, principal of Keymark Associates, Marietta, Ga., relates. “One- and two-person households make full meal preparation impractical.”
These issues combine to inspire the development of new packaging devices that streamline getting a meal on the table. Keith says these trends have been a driving force in the past 10 years.
“Delayed marriages, smaller families, and high divorce rates have diminished the dominance of the traditional two-parent nuclear family,” he explains, adding, “Even these families have busy schedules with lots of child-based activities.”
Today’s consumers are willing to pay for the convenience of a reclosable package, confirms Chad Baker, assistant vice president sales, packaged meats, for Smithfield Inc., Smithfield, Va. Last year, Smithfield rolled out four varieties of deli-thin ham and turkey in the company’s resealable Sandwich Keepers containers.
“Consumer demand for premium ham and turkey products in plastic containers is undeniable,” he adds. “The days of cutting open a package, making a sandwich, and placing unused product in a plastic resealable bag that you pulled out of the pantry are gone.”
Smithfield’s Sandwich Keepers can be used as traveling lunchboxes after the meat is used, Baker notes. “Our container was engineered to carry a sandwich to work or school.”
Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods recently introduced a new line of Healthy Choice Deluxe Thin-Sliced lunchmeats, and as recently as May unveiled Butterball Extra Thin Sliced turkey in Ziploc packaging. The Healthy Choice products feature a 10-ounce resealable, reusable container, and a pair of 5-ounce pouches within each container to guarantee extra freshness.
One notable area of new product development has been the introduction of frozen meat and poultry products that can be directly heated, without the step of thawing. Packaging technology was instrumental in the creation of such items.
One example is the line of Oven Ready frozen turkeys from Hormel Foods’ Jennie-O Turkey Store® brand. The birds are packaged in a special bag consisting of an inner cook bag and an outer carrier bag. The outer bag features an IntegraScore® vertical, reclosable opening on the side along with a two-hole carrying handle and side gussets for standup display in the freezer case.
For prepackaged refrigerated meat products, an easy-to-use closure, such as zipper-type or resealable tub, is a key feature, according to several manufacturers. In the works are improvements on pressure-seal closures that allow the seal to stick multiple times, according to the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s What’s In Store 2006. Many packages are using a double seal or second, inner package which helps prevent tampering. NP
Shonda Dudlicek is a freelance writer based in Chicago.