ConAgra Foods, Omaha, says its shelf-stable packaging for new Healthy Choice® Fresh Mixers™ “starch-and-sauce” combo meals enhances their convenience. Designed with both customers and consumers in mind, the packaging teams rice or pasta noodles and a tray of sauce with form and function. An innovative top and bottom container structure is covered with a side-handled lid that doubles as a strainer. The innovations related to this container are covered by ConAgra Foods' pending patent applications.
The container's function is three-fold: It showcases the meals on store shelves to demonstrate freshness; it cooks the product in the microwave; and it functions as a serving bowl after the meal is prepared.
The duplex cooking and serving function heightens the “from-your-desk” preparation ease of Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers. The shelf-stable products have a one-year shelf life and have been available on the market since August, ConAgra reports. They feature an oval snap-fitting lid with multiple holes to strain either pasta or rice, depending on the product variety, and the lid resists leaks.
Injection-molded of clarified PP by Berry Plastics (www.berryplastics.com), the outer tub also features a convenient fill line that allows consumers to easily measure water used in cooking the meal. The inner sauce tray is made by Rexam (www.rexam.com), which uses a proprietary rotary thermoforming process. American Packaging Corp. (www.ampkcorp.com) produces the heat-sealed, die-cut peel-off strainer lid membrane of a PET lamination. Fort Dearborn Co. (www.fortdearborn.com) prints the labels on a semi-gloss paper stock with an OPP film overlaminate.
The user peels off the film lid, removes the strainer lid and sauce tray and adds water to a fill line. They snap on the strainer lid and microwave the container on high for five min, letting the cooked meal stand one min. The package vents through strainer holes in the lid. Just mix the sauce with the rice or pasta. Cathy Shapiro, principal packaging engineer at ConAgra Foods, says that so far, consumer response has been favorable to the line, priced at $3.49 each. There are six varieties, including Sweet & Sour Chicken, Sesame Teriyaki Chicken, Ziti & Meat Sauce, Rotini & Zesty Marinara Sauce, Southwestern Style Chicken and Szechwan Beef with Asian Style Noodles.