Convenience Drives Food Packaging Innovation

Convenience features are the focus for packages that enhance ease of use, both at home and on the go.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Convenience features such as easy opening, reclosability, portability and one-handed use continue to drive food-packaging innovation for a range of processed foods, including entrees, snacks and even foodservice products.

To make microwave cooking of chilled and frozen entrees even easier than it already is -- and to improve palatability, to boot -- microwave-packaging supplier Shieltronics, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, has created a multi-compartment tray that enables microwaving of vastly different foods with no time-outs to stir the contents or spoon sauce over them.

Brand owner Conveni, Liessel, The Netherlands, will launch Qizini-brand refrigerated entrees in the package this May. The injection-molded, dual-compartment Qizini tray will contain a fresh vegetable in one compartment and a ready-to-cook protein and starch (fish and potatoes, for example) in the other.

“The use of separate compartments prevents the mixture of taste and aroma and allows an optimal heating of the different food components," explains Hans Gehéniau, Shieltronics’ chief operations officer. "As different food components have different dielectric properties, they have their own optimal heating characteristics” based on a combination of power and time.

The Shieltronics technology addresses these differences “by shielding the most vulnerable components so they receive less energy,” Gehéniau adds. A microwave-shielding label is molded into the vertical wall of one compartment of the tray using in-mold labeling; consequently, the food in that part of the tray receives gentler treatment from the microwave than the food in the unshielded compartment.

In addition to regulating temperature, the shielding label, which is on the exterior of the package, can be printed in full color with graphics and/or text.

The package’s convenience and product-quality benefits are noteworthy. According to Gehéniau, the shielding technology eliminates hot and cold spots in microwaved food and delivers “the same culinary taste from a microwave meal as [the consumer] would get served in a restaurant.” He adds that cooking instructions are extremely simple. The meal cooks in 4 min. without “instructions like ‘heat for 30 seconds then stir, and do this three times.’ ”

In addition to entrees, potential applications for the package include combinations of hot and cold foods, such as meatloaf and salad, or even ice cream and chocolate sauce.

That’s a wrap

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn., is targeting on-the-go consumers, specifically teenagers, with the product concept and packaging for its Hormel REV wraps.

Introduced nationally in the U.S. in July 2013, Rev wraps are protein-rich snacks that can be consumed cold or hot. Sold refrigerated in the lunchmeat case, the product comes in an array of flavors: Pepperoni Pizza, Meat Lovers Pizza, Peppered Turkey, Ham and Cheese, Hot Peppered Ham, Italian Style Ham, Italian Style and Spicy Italian Style.

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