Fast and Easy is the Packaging Imperative

At home and on the go, fast and easy is the packaging imperative. New innovations provide single-serve solutions for products ranging from vegetables to wine.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Safe handling, an emerging feature for cook-in packaging, is integrated into Del Monte's microwaveable vegetable packaging. An easy-open tab lets consumers safely remove the lidding from the hot tray. The tray also incorporates side handles to reduce the risk of burns or spills.

Separately, RPC Bebo Nederland (www.rpc.nl), Goor, The Netherlands, has introduced safety-oriented ready-meal trays that incorporate notches for handles. The notches are ergonomically placed to ensure ease of handling when peeling off the film lidding.

Conventional retort processors also are pairing packaging convenience with safety. Canned fish and seafood producer Bernardo Alfageme S.A. (www.alfageme.com), Vigo, Spain, recently opted for an easy-open, safety-oriented feature on cans of its Miau brand mackerel in olive oil.

In place of a metal end, the can is sealed with a peelable panel that consumers can easily remove leaving no sharp edges. The flexible panel is made from aluminum foil, laminated with polypropylene film on the inside and lacquered on the outside. Called PeelSeam, the peelable-panel technology is supplied by Paris-based Crown Food Europe (www.crowncork.com).

Wieners redux

In the heat-and-serve arena, specialty paperboard-based packaging is opening the door to microwaveable sandwich items.

Packaging technology had to be married with some changes in the dough composition to bring to market Kraft's microwavable Oscar Mayer Fast Franks.

One of the newest in this category is Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer Fast Franks. These meat wieners and beef franks come individually wrapped in a microwaveable paperboard tray that fully warms the hot dog while at the same time heating the bun so it's soft and warm.

The paperboard material is designed with laminated quilts, or pockets, that expand when exposed to microwave energy and provide close contact with the product. The hot surface next to the food drives away moisture, enabling the bun to maintain its taste and texture. Graphic Packaging International (www.graphicpkg.com), Marietta, Ga., supplies the packaging material, called QuiltWave.

The packaging technology, "coupled with proprietary Kraft dough technology, helped take Oscar Mayer Fast Franks from concept into a marketplace reality," says Jim Kennedy, Oscar Mayer brand manager. "Consumers and retailers alike recognize the convenience of having a hot dog and a bun all in one package. And they have said they are pleased they now only have to wait 35 seconds to enjoy a tasty, hot and juicy Oscar Mayer hot dog wrapped inside a soft bun."

The product, merchandised in the refrigerated section, is in national distribution. The initial launch was multipacks of three franks, and Kraft plans to add an eight-count club pack.

Consumers who take ketchup on their wiener will be glad to know condiment makers are convenience-minded, too. For ease of pouring and storing ketchup, H.J. Heinz Co. (www.heinz.com), Pittsburgh, has developed the Fridge Door Fit bottle. Both the 46- and the 64-oz. sizes have a compact shape that fits snugly into the refrigerator door and incorporate side grips for easy handling.

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