Packaging Puts a New Spin on Old Products and Adds Convenience to New Ones

Frozen food processors are using packaging to put a new spin on familiar products and add convenience to new ones.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Innovative new frozen foods, including items such as organic baby food and freezer-to-oven brownies, are fostering growth of sustainable packaging and structures that deliver cook-in-pack convenience, portion control and other functional benefits.


The outside is a typical folding carton, but inside the Nummy Nums box is a six-cell plastic tray, resembling an ice cube tray, with each cell contains one portion of pureed baby food.

Frozen baby food, a recent entrant, is proving to be a category geared toward packaging creativity. Nummy Nums Inc. (, Monrovia, Calif., which sells six flavors of all-natural, gourmet, fresh-frozen baby food, is a case in point.

The company fills its products into six-cell plastic trays. Each cell contains one portion of pureed baby food, about two ounces. The filled tray is packed in a bag, which is inserted into a folding carton. The tray “looks like an egg tray, but instead of being divided into 12, it’s divided into six,” explains Arlene Yanover, Nummy Nums’ founder and president.

Yanover, a professional chef, started Nummy Nums using concepts she developed when making baby food at home. “I basically tried to copy what I did when I was feeding my baby and filled an ice cube tray.”

Prime Paper Packaging Supplies (, Irvine, Calif., provides the trays, which are pressure-formed using 25-mil, white high-impact polystyrene.

Another frozen baby food company, Plum Organics (,
New York, adds value to its products with recloseable packaging. The baby food is filled into polypropylene cups and sealed with foil; each cup includes a plastic cover so leftovers can be stored easily and transported securely. The four-ounce cups are packed two per carton.

One sweet package


The packaging challenge for Los Angeles-based Mary Beth’s Apple Pie Co. ( included both functionality and brand image. The package needed to protect the heavy frozen pies while presenting a gift-like appearance and harmonizing with the company’s old-time image.


The Mary Beth’s pie carton is hexagonal with a fanned top formed by folding leaves of paperboard into a three-dimensional shape. The bottom panel is designed with an intricate fold-and-tuck design that provides the strength needed to hold the hand-made, 4.5-lb. pies.

Corrugated board, though protective, was not appropriate for the package because of the gift aspect. And a plastic package would have clashed with the company’s old-fashioned image. That left paperboard — teamed with a clever carton design, it’s both visually appealing and strong enough to protect the product. The Mary Beth’s pie carton is hexagonal and sports a dramatic fanned-out top formed by folding leaves of paperboard into a three-dimensional shape. But the bottom panel of the carton holds the package’s true innovation.

The bottom is designed with an intricate fold-and-tuck design that provides the strength needed to hold the hand-made pies, which weigh 4.5 pounds each. Display Pack (, Grand Rapids, Mich., designed the unusual package. The cartons, which ship flat to Mary Beth’s, include markings that explain how to set them up.

“It all started with the weight of the pie. That was the structural challenge we had to overcome,” says Kristie Vos, packaging design manager at Display Pack. “Even though you don’t see the bottom of the box, it has to support the pie without dropping out. The top is aesthetic, but the bottom is what holds the pie.”

To come up with the package for Duncan Hines Oven Ready! Homestyle Brownies, Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (, Mountain Lakes, N.J., leveraged its experience with savory frozen foods. Pinnacle’s product portfolio includes Hungry-Man frozen dinners and Mrs. Paul’s and Van de Kamp’s frozen seafood.

Oven Ready is reportedly the first ready-to-bake frozen brownie. The product, which was formulated to taste like brownies made from Duncan Hines dry mix, is filled into trays made of crystallized polyethylene terephthalate (CPET) and sealed with film lidding. To prepare the product, the consumer removes the lidding and places the tray in a 350° oven for 27-29 minutes.

“The beauty for us as a company is that Duncan Hines is just one of our brands. We’re in the frozen food business. In effect, that’s what gave us the ability to do this,” says Jim Seiple, senior vice president, product development and technical services.

“The CPET tray, carton and film seal is the packaging model for our Hungry-Man dinners. We actually make this product in a frozen-meals plant,” Seiple says, adding that the only difference between Oven Ready and Hungry-Man trays is that the brownie tray has no compartments.

Because consumers are not familiar with ready-to-bake frozen brownies, the carton includes educational graphics. The front panel shows a photo of baked brownies in the tray, over a text banner that proclaims: “Ready to bake. No prep and no clean-up.”

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