When consumers seek healthier foods and convenient options, smart packaging can help deliver. Ready Pac Foods, which specializes in fresh-cut produce, is one company that knows packaging innovation is key to satisfying a hunger for delicious dishes.
Ready Pac Foods was sprouted in 1969 in Pasadena, CA. Founder Dennis Gertmanian was a college student working for his dad's produce distribution company while on break. When Pops went on vacation and left his son in charge, Gertmanian satisfied an all-important customer's request for pre-cut lettuce by cutting, polybagging and delivering it to the client-thus, the fresh-cut produce industry was born.
From there, Ready Pac Foods expanded to handle foodservice business throughout the western U.S. In the 1970s, it introduced Aqua Pac cut vegetables to retail. Soon after, it expanded with pre-packed lettuce salads. In the 1990s, seeing the expansion of fresh-cut produce in Europe, the company introduced more sophisticated salad products. After implementing a number of processing and packaging innovations, Ready Pac Foods was able to expand distribution of fresh-cut salads and vegetables nationwide.
As the company moves into the 21st century, it continues its history of innovation. One of its recent developments is its Bistro Bowl salads, which are single-serve, complete salad meals.
"The packaging is unique, with a base that holds the salad greens and functions as its own serving bowl, plus an inset with compartments to hold dressing, protein components and condiments, and a disposable fork," says Tristan Simpson, director of marketing for Ready Pac Foods Inc. "A combination of outstanding, functional packaging and delicious recipes has helped Ready Pac become the leader in single-serve salads."
Product developers at the company's Swedesboro, NJ, location worked with a number of packaging companies to develop the bowls, insert and lidstock that provided the functionality to deliver the original line of salads. Simpson says the company kept in mind a number of objectives as they began work on the line.
"First, we needed to deliver the core: great taste, safe products and shelf life, as we do with all of our products," she says. "For the bowl salads specifically, we wanted to separate the salad greens from the other components with the goals of improving shelf life and also allowing the consumer to clearly see what all the delicious ingredients were. Both the conventional and new organic items come packaged in a convenient bowl, and include dressing and a fork, providing a simple solution for consumers to take the salad on-the-go."
Lean and green
A hallmark of the Bistro Bowl line is overall packaging sustainability. The Ready Pac and private-label bowl salads all incorporate recycled material and sustainability-minded operation down the line. According to Simpson, the company in 2012 used more than 56 million recycled PET beverage bottles in its Bistro Bowl packaging production.
"When Ready Pac created the bowl salad line our first requirement was that the packaging used would deliver the necessary shelf life to meet or exceed our customers' requirements, and the second was to make it easy for a consumer to see how fresh the product is," Simpson says. "Since then, we have made continuous improvements over time to create a more sustainable bowl salad package, and the net effect is we're making a significant contribution to helping the environment."
Each Ready Pac bowl salad package, including the insert that separates protein ingredients and condiments from the salad greens, contains 60 percent post-consumer recycled content. That works out to slightly more than one recycled 500mL beverage bottle per package.
In addition, the salad bowls and inserts are produced in plants powered by 50-percent solar energy. Combining the energy savings of using recycled bottles and the solar energy savings versus conventional power, each Ready Pac Bistro Bowl salad package saves about 1,000 BTUs or 0.30 kWh of electric power. This energy savings reportedly is enough to run a traditional 100-watt light bulb for about three hours, or an energy-saving 26 W/1300 lumen bulb for 26 hours.
In addition to the single-unit packages, the company also offers two-pack units, which come in a paperboard sleeve. The Bistro Bowl line began its life with distribution on the east coast in 2012, then expanded with several flavors (bringing the total to 12) and distribution to the west and Canada.
Another innovation is the company's Ready Snax line, which puts edibles like fruit or veggies with snacking companions like dips, yogurts, pretzels and cheese. Items in the works include fresh-fruit and yogurt parfaits.
The company's motto is "Real. Fresh. Innovation." Simpson says the company's efforts feed into that statement, through innovations in packaging configurations and materials that help satisfy consumer needs for fresh healthful food.
"Attaining the necessary shelf life to meet or exceed our customers' requirements is a must-have that our packaging needs to deliver," she says. "It also is important that the packaging makes it easy for a consumer to see how fresh the product is. Those two requirements help us deliver on ‘real' and ‘fresh.' Innovation requires significantly more, and we look for packaging to help Ready Pac deliver delicious, creative and convenient fresh food solutions."
Sustaining innovation in the fresh-cut produce market...and more
Smithers Pira's annual meeting of the minds focuses on maximizing the effectiveness and profitability of eco-friendly packaging.
On March 13, representatives from leading CPGs and packaging industry giants will gather in Orlando for the seventh annual Sustainability in Packaging conference, produced by Smithers Pira in association with Packaging Digest. The 2013 event-with the theme "Driving innovation through the supply chain"-is expected to bring together more than 300 top-level executives, engineers and business developers to tackle challenging topics such as extended producer responsibility, sustainable packaging materials and practices innovation, technical developments, compostable packaging and more. The agenda boasts several sessions, each honing in on a different specialty area of particular concern to sustainability-minded packaging pros.
At the upcoming conference, Brian Zomorodi, svp of technology and quality for Ready Pac Foods Inc., will speak on "Innovation Packaging in Fresh-Cut: A Win-Win Case."
The executive will cover traditional packaging for leafy greens-including flexible packaging, the rise in clamshells as a preferred packaging method for salad products and the introduction of peel-and-seal packaging, which can increase sustainability and improve convenience.
"Sustainability in packaging means a smarter design, better functionality and less material," Zomorodi says. "It is good for the environment, the consumer and the business as a whole. At Ready Pac, we believe packaging is an integral part and is a vehicle to implement sustainability measures while delivering a positive message for sustainability throughout the supply chain, from packaging manufacturers to the consumers."
A number of other big-name companies are scheduled to attend and present at the conference. Firms expected to be represented at this year's Sustainability in Packaging include:
- Sealed Air
- International Paper
For more information on the event or to register, visit www.sustainability-in-packaging.com.