Convenience First Packaging Design
Prepare and Cook
We would be remiss not to mention the inundation of ready to prepare and cook meal kits in the market. Retailers are swiftly moving into the space both through acquisition and product expansion, so we are seeing more and more pre-prepared foods.
These types of products require thermal and specialty packaging designed to separate and portion the various ingredients. While there may be more packaging involved, at home food waste is likely to reduce as consumers purchase in quantities they are able to consume in one sitting.
Heat and Eat
Another area of growth is in ready to cook meal kits. These convenient packages contain ingredients already prepped and ready to cook offering convenience with the freshness of a home cooked meal. Packaging requirements for these types of meals will vary depending on the preservation properties and shelf life expectations of the foods. Vacuum packaging can extend the shelf life of food significantly while trays with lidding are great for displaying the ingredients for fresh products with high turnover.
Ovenable trays have been in the market for many years, both in paper and rigid plastic materials, however, what is relatively new and not very common in the market is the ovenable plastic overwrap. I have always avoided heat and plastics because in the past we were discouraged from cooking or even heating food with plastic. However, it seems that the industry has devised a way to overcome plastic transference by using specific types of materials.
Recent purchases of seasoned fish and seasoned, raw whole chicken cooked beautifully in flexible bags designed for baking in the oven. These bags are self-ventilating to allow the steam out but keep the juices in. The beauty of this convenient package is the food is already prepared and there is no pan mess to clean up. It also eliminates the need to purchase seasoning that may or may not be used again.
Last but not least we have the boil in a bag option.
When I first saw these in the market, I was horrified. We had always discouraged boiling in the bag because additives that are used in plastics can migrate into the food. However, now new technologies and materials make it possible to purchase pre-prepared foods and heat them up right in the bag. No pot scrubbing with these products.