This article originally ran in the March 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.
The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical to the overall food industry marketplace. In this issue, we ask: What factors should food manufacturers consider when choosing reduced packaging options that are appropriate for frozen applications?
Ronald Cotterman, Executive Director of Sustainability, Sealed Air Corporation
Packaging plays a key role in delivering frozen foods to the market efficiently and without damage while providing safety and convenience for the consumer. When choosing packaging options for frozen applications, it is important to consider the following factors:
1. Optimize with the full life cycle in mind. Packaging selected should meet the essential requirements for the product during distribution, sale, use and disposal. Therefore, packaging materials should be selected that balance the need to make efficient use of packaging materials, reduce overall product dimensions, effectively merchandize the product and provide protection during distribution. This balance requires optimization of packaging rather than minimization.
2. Package for product protection. Packaging ensures that the product reaches the consumer without damage while retaining product quality. This means that packaging must survive conditions that the product will likely experience, not simply the average. Performance considerations such as seal integrity, toughness and, potentially, barrier properties, need to be taken into account and not compromised. Product damage can have a much more significant impact than that of the packaging.
3. Design with consumer use in mind. Packaging that provides convenience, protection and efficiency enhances overall sustainability. Packages with strong seals that are also easy to open ensure consumers can safely access the product, while packaging that delivers portioned products can help reduce overall food waste.
Packaging is an essential part of the product life cycle and, with a few straightforward considerations, can enhance overall sustainability.
Robert E. Hogan, Director of Global Marketing, Zip-Pak
Food manufacturers are constantly looking for innovative ways to showcase their product through packaging while minimizing waste, reducing costs and maintaining the quality of the product. Particularly in the frozen food aisle, packaging is critical in grabbing the consumer’s attention through the freezer door. Fortunately for retailers, CPGs and consumers, new packaging solutions and technologies offer the benefits of convenience while simultaneously minimizing material use.
With these factors in mind, Zipbox, an innovative new package format that combines both rigid and resealable packaging, is an ideal way to reduce packaging material and grab consumer’s attention. The package is a poly-coated paperboard carton incorporating an attached flexible film header containing a ZIP-PAK Press-to-Close™ solution and is designed for direct-filling, which eliminates the need for an inner liner. This is an important innovation for products such as frozen waffles or meat products that typically require a rigid container with an inner liner. By removing the liner, the package style can hold up to 40 percent more product, maximizing the product-to-package ratio and cube utilization to reduce transportation costs. Zipbox® also provides a unique shelf presence compared to lay-flat packages.
However, if a product doesn’t necessarily need the protection of a rigid container, then flexible packaging is the best alternative for frozen applications. Zip-Pak recently commissioned Franklin Associates, a U.S.-based, third party research firm, to conduct a Lifecycle Inventory (LCI) comparing flexible and rigid packaging. The study confirmed significant environmental benefits of flexible packaging, especially as they relate to the Wal-Mart sustainability packaging scorecard. Compared to bag-in-box alternatives, resealable flexible pouches received a Wal-Mart scorecard rating increase of 47 percent.
Frozen food applications are diverse, as are the packaging options. Ultimately for manufacturers, balancing waste reduction, cost efficiencies, product protection, and consumer convenience is paramount to a successful product and package.