Before Carl Buddig & Co.’s CBQ subsidiary recently attained a multi-year contract to produce Kingsford-branded pre-cooked ribs and barbecue entrees, the existing packaging wasn’t exactly appetizing.
Back in 2016, the plastic film bag holding the ribs (then offered under the Tony Roma label) made the process of opening and handling the entrée messy. Rupari, the meat-packer-processor at the time, set out to find an updated design that helped minimize the mess involved in opening, cooking and eating the product, while maximizing the shelf life for their preservative-free recipes.
After putting their heads together, the partnership scrapped the plastic bag and decided on a foil-based configuration. While Advanta offers a range of standard aluminum trays, none were precisely right for the product; they developed distinctive 15-, 17- and 19-inch smooth-wall aluminum trays for the different products in the line, shaped to provide a custom fit for the size and shape of the entrees.
“The base of this tray was specially designed to be curved in shape,” says Miguel Campos, Advanta export sales manager. “This ensured the ribs were positioned steadily in the tray and ready for the vacuum seal.”
Advanta procured new packaging equipment to handle the products. The meat is deposited into the trays, which are then topped with a film layer and vacuum sealed. Quality testing on the production line insures no components contain pinholes or leaks. Product information is printed on the outer paperboard sleeve, which features bold graphics designed to entice hungry customers to buy.
The upgraded packaging enables consumers to take the product out of the refrigerator, remove the sleeve and film layer, and put the aluminum tray containing the product right in the oven or on the grill—no need to transfer into a secondary container. The new packaging launched in 2016, under the Tony Roma label. Carl Buddig acquired Rupari in June 2017 and continued packing under the original label. Then, in 2018, CBQ introduced the Kingsford brand, with the aluminum-tray packaging and a redesigned outer carton.
Charlie Ahern, Advanta general manager, says the aluminum-tray packaging launched in the Chicago market, then expanded to select grocery stores across America, with a $13.99 retail price tag. The aluminum-based packaging has landed positive customer feedback, thanks to improved convenience and reduced mess. Additionally, the shelf life for product in the new packaging stands at 145 days—nearly four months.
While the updated packaging design reportedly increased the per-unit container production cost, the investment has paid off—according to reports from Kingsford, the aluminum tray increased sales by 40% from 2015 to 2016, over the previous plastic-film Tony Roma packaging. By the time barbecue’s prime-time season started on Memorial Day 2018, the updated design under the Kingsford label was the third-biggest seller of its kind in the country.
Further, says Campos, the Kingsford packaging is getting noticed by other food firms interested in similar solutions for their products.
“What we have created is the first of its kind to market,” he says. “Other manufacturers have seen what we have produced and want the same shelf life potential for their own ready meals—which we are more than happy to get involved with.”
Freelance writer and former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.
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