1. What are ovenable tray films and why was their March 2015 introduction in the market so significant?
Lidding filmsare used by manufacturers to seal trays or cups filled with food. They help protect the product and keep it secure during its shipping, distribution, and shelf life. Ovenable lidding films, which are typically used on entrees and side dishes, allow the consumer to keep the lid on the tray while the food is heated in a microwave or conventional oven. The term dual ovenable is used to describe films that can be used in both types of ovens.
Lidding films are different from tray "skin" films in that the skin films are closely contoured to the food product; hence the name "skin.” Toray Plastics (America)’s LumiLid® polyester films are lidding, or covering films, which provide a peelable, removable top or lid to the tray stock. These films are typically not in contact with the food, except by casual contact. The films provide a cover to the food products during shipping to maintain package integrity and are often recommended by the food manufacturer to be removed prior to cooking. However, LumiLid films are FDA compliant and can remain on the food tray when specified by the food manufacturer. You can read more about that in the answer to question #2.
The LumiLid bio-based lidding films launched in March of 2015 are manufactured with more than 50% renewable polymers, which are derived from biological, sustainable sources, as compared with petroleum, thus making them more environmentally friendly than traditional lidding films. In addition, the manufacturing process used to create LumiLid bio-based film, or any LumiLid film, does not involve the use of solvents; hence the qualification that the films are solvent-free.
2. What are some of the big benefits of such films?
There are many benefits to LumiLid lidding films. Because the film is thin, it is less expensive, and uses fewer resources, than a sheet-molded lid. Toray’s LumiLid films are FDA compliant for use in oven temperatures of up to 400F for 30 minutes and can help the reheating or cooking process by trapping moisture close to the food. In addition, by designing a film with the proper sealant, the film can "self vent," or release steam build- up as the food cooks. In addition, they have a low seal initiation temperature, broad seal range, and excellent seal through food particles, which may have migrated onto the tray rim. The films are also easy to peel, which enhances consumer satisfaction and contributes to brand integrity.
3. It seems that one of the big benefits of these films, as far as consumers are concerned, is that there’s no puncturing of the film involved to cook it. Would you further explain why this is?
As noted above, with the proper sealant selection, the films enable "self venting" as the food cooks. That eliminates the need for the consumer to puncture the film because the internal steam pressure and elevated temperature allows the steam to escape.
4. It’s been said that inks printed onto these films may jeopardize the food if proper precautions aren’t taken when developing it. Is that true?
Inks are usually printed on the surface of lidding films. However, this issue is no different than those of other surface-printed applications where the ink comes into casual contact with the backside or food side of the film when it is re-wound after printing. For that reason, the manufacturer of the food product works with the ink supplier or converter to determine the proper formulation of inks that can be used for food applications.
5. How big do you expect these ovenable films to become in the future?
We anticipate growing demand for ovenable films. Food sold in trays for cooking and reheating, including increasingly popular artisanal and international varieties, is a rapidly growing trend. A tasty, satisfying, single-dish meal prepared quickly and easily, is very appealing to today’s consumers whose lifestyle often demands convenience.
6. Please share anything else you deem worthy of discussing about ovenable films.
Toray’s LumiLid ovenable films do double duty. They are also ideally suited for fresh and refrigerated foods, another area of growth. Consumers appreciate that the clear film provides visibility of the food product. Food manufacturers appreciate the convenience of obtaining a lidding film for hot and cold applications from one source.