Fresh-cut Packaging Takes on New Characteristics

In an era of redesigns, makeovers and change, fresh-cut packaging is not immune. The days of plastic bags and simple plastic deli containers are no more. Those browsing their local produce department – or industry trade show – will find a variety of options for fresh-cut produce: plastic clamshells to breathable bags, corn-based clamshells to fruit-scented containers.

Take, for example, this product from Fabri-Kal. Its new plastic containers actually smell like the product in them. The technology, called ScentSational, brings the product to the consumers so they can smell as well as see it in the store. The strawberries smell like strawberries. The blueberries smell like blueberries.

“As more ready-to-serve products are introduced in Fabri-Kal containers, there is a great opportunity for brand managers to positively enhance the consumer’s eating experience by increasing desirable aroma,” said Carrie Bertch, Fabri-Kal marketing manager.

But it doesn’t stop there. The company recently introduced an absorbent technology developed by Maxwell Chase Technologies. The technology uses a super-absorbent dust, covered by a non-woven material, to absorb and trap excess moisture from pre-packaged fruits and vegetables. According to a company press release, this technology offers reduced food spoilage and waste, increased labor safety and efficiency and increased product visual appeal.

Corn-based packaging also is among the trends. This technology, preferred for its environmental aspects, is making its mark. NatureWorks PLA is finding success in the fresh-cut industry with its products, which range from rigid thermoforms to films and from bags to bottles.

Newman’s Own Organics took the NatureWorks products and ran with them.

“We’ve seen a lot of excitement from consumers who are glad to finally have an environmentally beneficial alternative to traditional plastic containers,” said Peter Meehan, CEO of Newman’s Own Organics.

NatureWorks PLA has entered into contracts with corn growers to ensure that identity-preserved, non-GMO corn will be used to make the tubs and lids in the next growing season.

According to a survey by the Grapentine Company, 74 percent of respondents in the United States who rated nature-based packaging as “very desirable” would pay five cents more for a product packaged in it.

Another industry packaging trend is in shrink wraps and microwavable packages. Sealed Air’s Cryovac has recently introduced its Simple Steps package made of a permeable material that extends shelf life for perishable products.

“As you see the states move more and more to being concerned about what young people are eating, we certainly think our package format lends itself very nicely to that whole movement,” said Myra Foster, Cryovac’s new business development manager for produce. “It meets all the needs of a healthy, nutritious, convenient, simple-to-handle microwavable package people are looking for.”

The vacuum-sealed format conforms to the contours of the produce inside, which improves presentation, consumer appeal and shelf life.

“You get very good merchandising appeal because you can see product very closely,” Foster said.

It’s important for fresh-cut processors and retailers to stay up to date on the latest packaging trends. According to information printed in “What’s in Store 2005,” published by the International Dairy-Deli-Bake Association, 90 percent of respondents said packaging attributes would influence them to switch brands.

For more of what’s new in packaging supplies and equipment, check out the Packaging Showcase section.

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