Menza Foods finds the perfect fit for its Firenze entrée line

Posted by Linda Casey

January 29, 2014

4 Min Read
Menza Foods finds the perfect fit for its Firenze entrée line
flickr Svadilfari_cheese ravioli

A high-quality product deserves a high-quality package and that is exactly what Steve Menza, president and founder of Menza Foods was looking for when he began exploring packaging options for the company’s Firenze line of chef-inspired ready meal entrées. “We wanted a package that not only performed well, but also showcased our product,” said Steve Menza. “We use the best ingredients and processing methods in our category, so we don’t want to hide our product behind a box or carton.”

Menza Foods could be considered a pioneer in the high-quality ready meals industry, with more than 20 years of experience as a home-meal replacement concept. Today the company’s Firenze line of products are found everywhere from large supermarket retailers, to campus convenience stores, to office vending machines.

Searching for a solution
Focusing primarily in frozen meal formats, Menza says that his company is working to alter consumer perceptions of the category by offering restaurant-quality meals in microwavable trays that are ready in four to five minutes. “Our entrées are unique because we blend multiple components with a sauce base before the product is packaged and frozen, unlike most readymeal formats that require the consumers to blend them during or after the reheating process.”

Menza was introduced to the Cryovac Simple Steps package when his sales rep Joe Schaefer brought him samples of vegetables packaged in the ready meal format. “We were always interested in finding a better package,” said Menza. “We looked at a variety of different packages and technologies, and we weren’t satisfied until we got the call from Joe. When I saw the samples, I knew this could be an opportunity to enhance our entrées.”

Pouches not up to par
Prior to adopting the Simple Steps package, Menza Foods packaged its ready meal entrées in pouches. “We couldn’t pull a vacuum with the pouches, so frost and ice crystals could form and affect the product visibility,” said Menza. “The pouches required our customers to pierce the film for ventilation and called for careful handling once the product was heated.”

Additionally, the company found that it had difficulty with label adhesion on the pouches if it didn’t use pre-printed materials.

A bevy of benefits
Menza Foods attributed many of the benefits of switching to the Simple Steps ready meal format to the vacuum skin packaging technology. The tight vacuum and elimination of freezer burn not only increased the product’s freshness and shelf-life but improved the product’s visual appeal. The increased visibility allowed Menza Foods to merchandise the product using a sleeve cover with a large window to show the actual product.

In addition to these improvements, the new package allowed for more convenience at the customer level.

“We liked that the Simple Steps package was self-venting and had safety features that allowed for easier handling after the product was heated,” said Menza. Switching from pouches to the Simple Steps tray also meant that the product did not have to be transferred to a bowl or plate after heating.

The vacuum skin packaging also creates an environment for steam-assisted cooking in the microwave, which results in flavor enhancement and even heating of the product.

Taking time to test
Before adopting the new package, Menza Foods went through multiple testing phases to see how the Simple Steps package would perform with its Firenze product line. The Cryovac engineers initially developed test samples at their labs to show the visual aspects of the package with the Firenze product. Menza Foods then rented a semi-automatic T200 Multivac traysealer to run in-house production tests for a six-month period. “Every product is unique to that machine, so we were running a lot of tests to find the best performance level for our product,” said Menza.

Following a successful testing process, Menza Foods adopted the Simple Steps package for its Firenze entrée line in late 2008 and eventually upgraded to an automatic T400 Multivac system to increase speed and production efficiency.

Highly rated results
“We’ve had tremendous growth in the past few years and we attribute part of it to the success of the new packaging format,” Menza said. “We are hearing that the product is exceeding customer expectations at all levels, especially product quality and the packaging. Our biggest challenge with the product is that we can’t seem to stock it fast enough.The product has particularly performed well in the campus convenience store market, where it is available on 150 university campuses across the country. Menza Foods is also considering expanding its offerings in the office vending machine market, with products now in vending machines in Chicago and South Carolina markets. “We are currently working with club store chains as well to offer the Firenze entrées at wholesale.”

With double-digit growth over the last couple of years and no signs of slowing down, Menza Foods offers a great example of the successful combination of a high-quality product with the right packaging technology. “We have a great relationship with our packaging suppliers,”

Menza said. “With our processing and what we’re doing, we’ve been committed to ready meals for 20 years now. A lot of the benefits of the Simple Steps package have allowed us to take our product to another level that has surpassed our customer’s expectations.”

SOURCE: Sealed Air

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