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Sheer Innovation


Packaging is riding high in the fresh food world, as evidenced by a groundswell of innovation and collaboration taking shape between trading partners in record numbers.

During last month’s Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Anaheim, Calif., the exceptional achievements of eight U.S. companies chosen as this year’s Impact Awards winners drove that point home with packaging applications that demonstrate creativity and innovation. In presenting the awards, Wegmans Food Markets’ David Corsi, chair of PMA’s executive committee, spoke about the rich opportunities that packaging innovation offers to promote a brand and advance key initiatives such as Sustainability.
The slate of PMA’s 2009 Impact Award winners, delineated by categories, included:
• Environment/Sustainability: Earthbound Farm Clamshell Packages: 5-ounce, 11-ounce, 1-pound and 2-pound 
• Food Safety/Traceability: Yottamark, Inc. for Microbaker Traceable Labels 
• Functionality/Technology: Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. and Taylor Farms, Inc. for Taylor Fresh Bag Plus
• Marketing Design: The Oppenheimer Group and Zespri for Kiwi Snack Pack
• Marketing Messaging/Content: Stemilt Growers for its Fresh, Flavorful & Family-farmed cherry display bin 
• Supply Chain Efficiencies: IFCO Systems for Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs).
“We have seen a positive shift since this award program began,” noted PMA president Bryan Silbermann. “The entries reflect an increasing industry commitment to the role packaging can play in maintaining product quality and safety, in communicating with consumers, and in demonstrating the industry’s commitment to the environment and sustainability.” 
As in years past, this recent Fresh Summit confab once again served as the primary springboard for a number of impressive new product launches, many of which begin and end with cutting-edge packaging design. Among the standouts is Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce’s new proprietary controlled ripening technology (CRT) banana packaging, which offers retailers improved quality and inventory control with ripening and handling, alongside reduced shrink and increased sales opportunities.
Following extensive testing of its new CRT package, Del Monte Fresh officials say the new technology offers many advantages over the conventional banana box, beginning with a brighter-looking, sweeter-tasting banana that has a shelf life three days longer than that of conventionally packaged bananas. Promising not only to reduce shrink at the retail level, but also reduce labor, the new design, for which air stacking is no longer necessary, also enables retailers to have fewer banana deliveries.
Citing results of early-adopter retailers that have already seen improved movement in comparison with the same time period last year, Del Monte Fresh executives said during a recent press conference that produce managers have also noticed significant labour savings in tandem with favourable consumer feedback that speaks to the “improved taste, quality, freshness and texture” of Del Monte CRT bananas.
“Innovation is rare in the banana category,” says Dennis Christou, Del Monte Fresh N.A.’s VP of marketing, of the groundbreaking product. “Our objective was to create a new packaging that would improve quality while at the same time help retailers reduce labour costs and shrink.” Del Monte Fresh is also offering a new addition to its line of on-thego energy snacks, courtesy of CRT packaging, with its single-serve finger bananas. The innovative package helps the convenience-oriented bananas experience less scarring and bruising, thanks to improved moisture retention that yields a brighter, shinier, top-shelf banana with a shelf life up to five days longer than that of comparable product. Availablein a 40-pound bulk box, 40-pound quad-pack or 10-pound displayready box, the single-serve banana packs – ideal for convenience and foodservice operators – feature a scannable bar code for easy checkout. 
Sunkist’s ‘A-peelin’ New Packaging
Designed to stimulate the senses with enhanced quality, value and brand awareness, Sunkist has taken a decidedly consumer-focused angle with its new cartons, bags, bins and displays that company officials say have been “carefully and creatively designed to meet the merchandising and display needs of retailer and foodservice customers, as well [as] increased efficiencies in handling and transportation.” 
Using high-impact photography and graphics that communicate taste and quality vis-à-vis appetizing closeup photography of the various members of Sunkist’s fresh citrus family, the new packaging adds colour and excitement to the produce department. “Our aim is to create a ‘citrussensation’ with our packaging,” says Sunkist’s packaging director, Dean Troxell. “Consumers buy with their eyes, so our packaging is designed to showcase the natural goodness of Sunkist citrus.”
Included in the new line: an 8 pound Sunkist Organic Lemon Mini Pack Carton, both a half carton and 1- pound bag for Meyer Lemons, and attractive new Giro “stand-up grab bags” for the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based grower co-op’s many seasonal specialties, including Cara Cara Navels, Moro (Blood) Oranges and several Mandarin varieties. Also new are a Sunkist Mandarin Bagmaster designed to carry all Sunkist Mandarin family Giro bags, as well as a new pop-up display unit that’s easy to assemble, with an interchangeable header card to easily display different varieties.
Lettuce Praise Clear Lam’s Vision
In addition to designing its PMA award-winning Taylor Fresh Bag Plus – a first-of-its-kind design that brings a new and improved look to fresh salad kits for Taylor Farms via a 5-ounce lettuce tray and two variations of a three-compartment insert sealed with a breathable barrier film – Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Clear Lam also produces thousands of materials used to package perishable Goods.
Having recently opened a new facility in Vernon, Calif., to further support growth in the value-added produce and bakery markets, Clear Lam is leading the environmentally friendly packaging charge as one of the world’s largest extruders and thermoformers of renewable plantderived plastics. Several of its most promising packaging applications hail from Clear Lam’s Thermoforming division, which extrudes and thermoforms renewable Ingeo PLA and polyester (PET) into sleek, functional containers for produce, baked goods, deli items, candy and meal kits. Offered in clear as well as pigmented format, Thermoforming products have a variety of novel mold bases allowing for cost-effective customisation in a brief lead time. Saddle up to Hassle-Free Garlic Christopher Ranch’s freshly peeled garlic cloves and freshly roasted garlic cloves, now available in 6-ounce resealable vacuum bags, are part of the Gilroy, Calif.-based, family-owned producer’s ongoing sustainability program.
Using 80 percent less packaging than the original 6-ounce jars and 100 percent recyclable, the new bags also feature vacuum packaging that reduces product shrink and improves freshness, as well as a press-and-seal closure to preserve freshness while enabling more tolerance for temperature fluctuations.All of the 6-ounce bags – which are packed in six- or 12-count cases – require constant refrigeration (34 degrees to 38 degrees Fahrenheit recommended) for an approximate seven-week shelf life from pack date. Both peeled cloves and roasted cloves are 100 percent preservativefree California heirloom garlic that is both HACCP- and kosher-certified.
Mann Unwraps New Packaging System
Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing Co. has taken the wraps off a new packaging system designed to segment the fresh-cut vegetable category at the store level. In distribution at presstime, Mann’s new packaging colour-codes the fresh-cut vegetable category by segment for shoppers so they can easily identify and differentiate core vegetable products from specialty niche products and snacks.
For example, packages of Mann’s core products – Broccoli & Carrots, Broccoli & Cauliflower and Vegetable Medley – are blue; slaw products such as Broccoli Cole Slaw are purple; and peas and snack products are pink. A secondary accent color helps further differentiate the multiple SKUs. The company’s Sunny Shores brand is now centered on the front of the package panel, which is on trend for consumers who want to know where their food comes from. Mann’s new packaging system also includes a 2-pound bag for “veggie lovers,” as well as a collaboration with Lisa Lillien, cookbook author and founder of hungry-girl.com, whose image and seal of approval now appear on Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw, Rainbow Salad and Sweet Potatoes.
Developed by Mann’s consumer affairs specialists and driven by consumer feedback gathered over the 20 years the supplier has built its consumer database, the packaging features such back- panel content as easy, one-step steam-cooking instructions, usage ideas, contact information, a nutrition label and a callout of sustainable growing practices. “We know our steam technology is the best and most convenient way to cook vegetables,” says Lorri Koster, VP of marketing, adding that Mann’s new packaging system “communicates with shoppers at the shelf level and combats the move to the frozen food aisle.”
Cryovac Mirabella Package: More Meat, Less Package Packaging innovation continues to unfold in the fresh meat arena, including Duncan, S.C.-based Sealed Air Corp./Cryovac division’s Mirabella line of case-ready, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) applications offering the benefit of film-to-meat contact sans discoloration.
Offering key benefits such as headspace reduction and enhanced product visibility with enhanced shelf life for fresh red meat and poultry, Cryovac’s Mirabella package consists of two co-extruded shrink films – a permeable sealant film plus a high-barrier outside film. The double film is combined with Cryovac rigid polypropylene or barrier foam trays to make a hermetically sealed package that eliminates leaking Packages.
Prior to sealing on a modified tray/lid system, the double-film is separated on the roll to allow a modified atmosphere gas mix to travel between the spaces of the two films, which allows the permeable film to touch the meat without the meat discoloring as it does when using only a barrier film.
Among the value-added benefits for both meat processors and retailers, Mirabella film employs shallower trays for optimal space use, reduced transport costs and reduced MAP gas consumption. Meanwhile, retailers will have less headspace in the package for optimised retail shelf utilization alongside superior shrink properties that provide a superb wrinkle-free, flat finish for enhanced presentation in the case. The antifog performance of the film’s clarity – which further facilitates superior eye appeal to showcase fresh proteins to their best advantage – coupled with lower profile trays, also offers reduced packaging waste.
Marinade on Demand
Sealed Air Corp./Cryovac division’s handy-dandy Marinade on Demand package is a two-part, thermoformed rollstock package that separates fresh meat from the marinade portion, paving the way for a neat and easy way to marinate meats in a jiffy. Here’s how it works: at the consumer’s leisure, he or she needs only squeeze the marinade pocket over the protein being prepared, after breaking the seal between the two pockets. The marinade is quickly – and without being touched – transferred to the meat side, beginning the marinating process, which lasts as long as the user desires. For more information, call (800) 845-3456, or visit www.sealedair.com.