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Pace Ready Meals microwave pouch self-vents…

Pace Ready Meals microwave pouch self-vents…
The standup pouch converts into a bowl when the notched top portion is removed.

…and that isn’t even its biggest packaging distinction: The standup pouch converts into a bowl when the notched top portion is removed after microwave heating.

The retort pouch sure has changed over the years, hasn’t it? Those aluminum-foil-laminated pouches for military-style ready meals looked every bit what they were: An unadorned, totally utilitarian food.

Today’s ready-meals are packed into colorfully-printed, brand-forward, all-plastic stand-up pouches ready for microwave heating and, in the case of Pace brand Ready Meals from Campbell Soup Co., conveniently convert into an eat-from bowl. That means clean-up convenience because consumers don’t have a bowl to wash afterwards.

Pace Ready Meals are available in four varieties: Cheesy chicken quesadilla; Southwest Style Chicken with Corn and Beans; Fiesta Chicken in Rice with Green and Red Peppers; and Santa Fe Style Steak with Black Beans and Rice, which was the variety I picked up for close examination. It offers a 9oz net weight single-serve portion. The products’ branding taglines play directly off the convenience of the packaging:  "Grab the Southwest by the pouch” and “All you need is a fork, a minute and a microwave.”

Packaging and design features include:

Arched copy along the top pouch center above the arced Pace branding states “Microwavable in 60 seconds.”

Tidy tear notches on both sides. Copy at that point states “Tear here for instant bowl.”

That was interesting because before noticing that particular callout it was apparent this has a wider-than-normal gusset—about 2.5 inches at the center—for this size pouch. Before it turns into a bowl-like serving container when the upper part of the pouch is removed after heating, it makes for a highly stable stand-up pouch. The gusset film is clear so that curious consumers can see the contents (below).

Quick Steaming Technology logo on the front.

Cool Touch areas is a good idea, but the thing about them is that they can only be used to transport the pouch because when you get to the point to open a pouch (as with this and other microwave-heated pouched foods) users have to hold it in two places across the side—and one of those areas to hold has to be below the Cool Touch location.

Pleasing life-like and life-sized product photography front and center.

Key Nutrition Facts summary highlighted in front panel callouts.

Next: Packaging safety and health concerns addressed

Callouts address safety and health concerns

Subtle copy along the front right corner reads “Non-BPA Packaging.” That’s also repeated among a list of bullet points on the pouch rear that also calls out “No Added Preservatives” and “No Artificial Flavors or Colors.”

Back panel Preparation Directions are printed in 3 steps with key words in caps and reverse type:

  1. PLACE UNOPENED, SELF-VENTING pouch standing upright in microwave. Heat 1 min. or until hot. Careful, let stand in microwave 1 min.
  2. REMOVE pouch from microwave using Cool Touch areas.
  3. TEAR OPEN pouch. Stir well and enjoy right from the pouch or pour into bowl.

Because the attribution copy below the ingredients states “Manufactured for Campbell Soup Company” we know that these products are contract packaged.

The wrap up

What I like best about it: Attractive, no-slumping stand-up pouch that offers several functional features including the Quick Steaming and Self-Venting features to go along with turning into a bowl. I think the pouch-to-bowl conversion is particularly appealing for those who eat at work where washing dishes is even less desirable than at home.

What I don’t like: No complaints on the packaging, but like most products in the ready-meal category, it’s high in sodium, 31% Daily Value, though props for low Total Fat and Saturated Fat (both 3%) and a healthy 12% serving of Dietary Fiber.

For more information, visit the Pace Ready Meals website.

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