Redefining the Freezer

By Tom Wray, associate editor

As the freezer is used for more than leftovers, suppliers step in with products for today’s busy schedules.
With the tight schedules many people have these days, the freezer has become more than the home of freezer-burned leftovers. It now holds heat-and-eat meals and entrees made for today’s busy schedules. Those items need more than just plastic wrap and freezer bags.
Suppliers these days have worked hard to develop products that serve those needs, with new features coming out all the time. Since many people will use only a portion of a heat-and-eat product at a single meal, resealable packaging has gone to the top of the list for vital features.
“Regardless of the application, any brand can benefit from a resealable closure,” says Elizabeth Sheaffer, marketing manager at Zip-Pak. “Multi-serve portions are ideal since the product is not consumed in one sitting. These multi-service products benefit from a resealable closure because it enhances brand exposure by eliminating the need to transfer contents into another container and therefore keeping the brand in front of the consumer longer.”
She also points out that consumers increasingly prefer resealable packages for a wide range of products. Her company sponsored a survey earlier in April 2007 to find out the attitudes of consumers towards resealable, flexible packaging. The survey found that they prefer resealable technology and are willing to pay a premium price for it.
Pactiv Corp., has also been working on making improvements in the area. “The biggest challenge that we see at Pactiv is continuing to develop the right slider for the right application,” says Stephen Meli, marketing manager at Pactiv. “Every application is different and every slider might not perform the same in different applications. It is important that you have the right solution that meets your needs.”
Sheaffer says there are common misconceptions keeping brand managers in the meat industry from using resealable features. First is the cost. They believe it is an expensive investment, especially with the purchase of new machines to add sliders to the packaging. She says that many machines can be retrofitted to incorporate press-to-close seals or sliders. “Retrofitting is a cost-effective, simple solution that can allow brand managers to provide convenience to consumers of frozen meats,” she adds.
Managers also may think that adding a resealable feature to a package will cause problems because of the time it takes to include them on the line. But many machines can be retrofitted in a day with little or no interruption to the production flow.
Big and small
The packages can work for both bulk and retail-sized packagedproducts.
“Bulk packages for both club stores and foodservice have taken off in the last year to year and a half in flexible packaging,” Meli says. “The larger packages have an even greater need for reclosability in the freezer. Not only does the closure offer protection for your product but flexible packages with reclosable features maximize the space utilization while the frozen food is being consumed. And because it can be kept in the original package the brand identity is kept in front of the consumer longer.”
The size of the product doesn’t affect how Sheaffer’s company approaches resealable packages either. In fact, they’ve recently debuted a new product for large format bags that use a slider closure. The product doesn’t require package alteration. It works very well with frozen food applications and technology is available for packages up to 55 pounds, providing the same consumer experience and seal integrity for any pouch size throughout each use.
Pactiv has seen some success recently with a package they’ve developed for Perdue Farms. The frozen stand up pouch has been a success for the company in the marketplace.
Zip-Pak’s most recent success was also with a major poultry producer, Pilgrim’s Pride.
“The corporation launched an innovative slider package format for its 100 percent natural boneless skinless breasts and breast tenderloins,” explains Sheaffer. “Each fresh chicken breast or tenderloin is individually wrapped, allowing consumers to choose the appropriate portion while keeping the remaining contents frozen.”
She goes on to say that adding a resealable closure can differentiate any brand from its competition and provide a premium package for a premium product. Press-to-close or slider technology can be added to any flexible frozen food package. It can also provide prolonged brand exposure and an enhanced consumer convenience.
“Brand managers need to stay ahead of the competition,” she continues. “Applying any type of resealable technology to a package will give the consumer the impression that the product is of higher quality; after all, if brands are taking steps to elevate the look of the product outside the package, the product inside the package must be premium quality as well.”
Time saver
People do enjoy having fresh foods, but in today’s world where every minute is often accounted for, frozen meat entrees are often a major timesaver and convenience.
“Frozen meats provide an advantage to homemakers juggling busy schedules,” Meli says. “This is especially true with prepared meats that can be ready to serve in minutes. Adding a reclosable package that is easily stored adds to the convenience and time savings.”
Consumers are always looking for convenience, according to Sheaffer. The hectic lifestyles of many consumers limit time for shopping and preparing fresh foods every day. Frozen foods, especially those where consumers can take only what they need and reseal, can greatly enhance a consumer’s experience.
Sheaffer adds that her company has found in focus group research that many consumers see resealable closures and holding in freshness.
“Certainly frozen foods can extend the life of the product after the package is opened,” says Meli. “Reclosability can extend the life even more by guarding against freezer burn and insuring the product stays in the package.”