Lauren Hartman

February 4, 2014

11 Min Read
Food-packaging highrollers

From juices to desserts, produce to soup, individually packaged portions were aces at the Food Marketing Institute show this year. Consumers are starting to buy smaller package sizes to control high food bills and their waistlines, and packagers are keeping track. And for the first time after a 26-year run in Chicago, the early May show, along with the United Fresh and Marketechnics expositions, was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The change of venue took a little getting used to, as nearly a dozen of the top food processors were absent, but it didn't stop the packaging innovations from shining. The show parlayed packaging portability, convenience and healthier food and beverage introductions into winning hands.

In fact, there were new products aplenty, and Kraft launched more than 80 of them, though not all were on display. Kraft intends to cut some of its portion sizes, thereby keeping prices down, and says it will launch several smaller package sizes and repack Oscar Mayer deli meats in single-serve structures. A taste of what appeared at the Kraft booth includes Cool-Whip in an attractive aerosol can, topped with a swirled, dollop-shaped white overcap, smaller, more portion-controlled deli packs of meats, cheeses and franks, health-conscious entries in packaging kits, a variety of microwavable bagels with fillings and more ethnic versions of its Easy Mac cups with peelable lids.

Pomegranate-spiked beverages and food items were the flavor of the day at both shows, and more specialty flavor combinations captivated showgoers with eye-catching package structures and taste-appealing graphics. A mere appetizer of items is described here.

Fruit cups to-go

Like so many exhibitors catching on to portion packaging for their products, Sunkist Growers has taken its luscious, jarred fruits and put them in handy, clear, 8-oz multilayer cups with peelable film membranes (1). The new portion-packed cups slightly resemble spoonable yogurt packs. Also available in 24-oz glass jars, the premium fruit line will be marketed in the cups across the chilled cases of the produce section at grocery, convenience and clubstores. Sunkist Premium Sweet fruit is being manufacturered by the Better for You Food Div. of the Old World Enterprise Group under license from Sunkist Growers, and sales will be managed by the Sunkist fresh produce sales organization. Old World says the line is cold-chain-managed, meaning that it is kept refrigerated at below 35 deg F all the way to the grocer's produce section, to ensure the highest level of freshness and taste. “The new line offers consumers a better-for-you product, with more natural taste,” explains Richard Sanderson president of Northbrook, IL,-based Old World Enterprise Group. “And the convenience of both eight-ounce cups and the jars makes it easy for consumers to feel good about eating healthy.”

Old World's product marketing manager Sarah McLaren tells PD that the clear cups, which are nitrogen-flushed, are produced in Spain by EDV ( and are made of ethylene vinyl alcohol/polyethylene terephthalate and contribute to the product's 120-day refrigerated shelf life.

Launched in January, the fresh-cut fruit contains 100-percent juice and includes peaches, Valencia oranges, Mandarin oranges, pineapple, red grapefruit, tropical fruit and citrus salad.

Sanderson says that the new line has tested well with consumers, and they played back attributes and strengths of the Sunkist brand as being known for freshness, citrus and health.

“They also favored the clear packaging, which was preferred by consumers who compared it with the competition and reported that the new packaging was higher quality and showed more of the real fruit,” he adds. The clear cups, which effectively showcase the brightly colored, fresh fruit inside, are sold in singles and retail for $1.89. McLaren says Old World began a test market launch in September 2008. The product is currently available in eastern areas of the U.S. at Acme and in the West at SuperValu. More store locations are quickly adding the cups, she says.

Mini produce packs tempt tiny tastebuds

Cherry tomatoes, candy peppers and mini cucumbers in small thermoformed, lunchbox-friendly trays with clear peel-off lids (2) under the Sunset Kids label were head-turners at the Mastronardi Produce booth. Situated near pristine Point Pelee National Park in Kingsville, ON, Mastronardi Produce Ltd., a leading grower, packer and distributor, calls its glass and plastic greenhouse operations one of the largest in the world. The clear, curvy Mimi 3-oz tray-packs haven't yet appeared in the marketplace, but the prototypes at the United Produce show were thermoformed of a glass-clear web of a polypropylene.

A PET material is also in the offing. Mastronardi is trying to qualify one of several films and machinery for both the trays and the film lidding that contain recycled content—perhaps even with some post-consumer-recycled plastic in it—but that's still pending.

“We're going to market soon in the U.S. and Canada,” Mastronardi's marketing manager Chris Veillon says. “We want the packs to be earth-friendly, so we're still determining several things about the components and materials.” The company also wants to use environmentally friendly inks on the lidding material, which it wants to be easy enough for small children to be able to peel off yet be durable and stay firmly on the packaging in distribution and in chilled cases.

Steamed potatoes in the bag

Wada Farms' Easy-Steamer fresh gourmet Red, Yukon Gold and Idaho Russet potatoes make preparing dinner a breeze. Ready to steam in their own bag (3), the washed, whole spuds come in a clear-film windowed pouch that holds 1.5 lb and is preperforated for venting during microwave heating. The bag saves time so that it's better spent on deciding which potato variety to eat, says Wada Farms. Launched about six months ago by Idaho Falls, ID-based Wada, a family-owned marketing group that began growing potatoes more than 60 years ago, the value-added Easy-Steamers microwavable, preservative-free potatoes can be heated in a mere eight minutes.

The steam cooks the product to peak flavor, says Wada, and it can either be mashed right in the bag or served from the bag. Wada Farms Marketing Group also handles sales for Dole potatoes and onions.

“We are very excited about this new line of products. The consumer responses have been amazing. We believe this to be the wave of the future, and we want you to be riding it,” says the company's website. “The Wada Farms and Dole Easy-Steamers were launched in November of last year. It's a progression from the Easy-Baker (individually wrapped microwave potatoes). It's meant to be a healthy, fresh and, most importantly, a fast alternative to the otherwise slow-cooking potato,” explains Chris Wada, merchandising manager. “It seems that everyone who tries them, loves them. Our biggest issue is getting the consumers educated on what the product is and how to use it.”

Wada goes on to say that the new microwave-safe film bags are made by Emerald Packaging ( of a 2-layer lamination. Available across the U.S. in a number of large grocery retailers, the bags sell for $2.49 to $3.28. “The only difference between the Wada and Dole labels are the graphics design,” says Wada. Each bag has a four-week shelf life when kept in a cool dry, dark location.

Crafty packaging from Kraft

More focused than ever on growing its iconic brands and making them more relevant for consumers, Kraft Foods presented all sorts of new offerings in improved and/or new packaging structures that span several product platforms, including snacks, quick meals, healthy products and premium taste experiences.

With lunchtime meals getting squeezed into shorter and shorter timeframes, Kraft took cues from busy, active lifestyles and developed Deli- Creations (4) with convenience and portability in mind. The new packages in its Oscar Mayer meats group include Deli-Creations flatbread or subroll sandwich kits.

According to Kraft, most consumers like a hot lunch, but don't have the time to make one. It says that 70 percent of Americans work straight through lunch or spend only 5 to 10 minutes grabbing a quick bite. The company developed Deli-Creations with a restaurant quality. Launched in January for $2.99 to $3.99, there are five varieties of flatbread sandwiches and five subroll sandwiches, all geared to time-pressed consumers who want a quick and easy meal.

Each 6.8- to 7.1-oz kit-like package incorporates the makings for one sandwich with individually wrapped or pouched meal components, complete with Oscar Mayer deli meats, specialty sauces and Kraft's natural cheeses, in a windowed carton. The product's refrigerated shelf life is about five weeks. The packages can be heated in the microwave for one minute.

Kraft is marketing several portable, take-along, portion-packed items like this, including Deli Fresh cheese slices with a rigid (presumably thermoformed), tray-and-lid package that helps keep the fresh taste inside: Oscar Mayer Mini Hot Dogs in a standup, resealable zippered pouch; Deli Fresh Singles, individual portions of shaved meats in a twin-pack flexible pouch for one- and two-person households; and Ritz Crackers Fresh Stacks, a smaller version of the cracker package similar to a soft drink can “fridge dispenser.”

Cool Whip whipped topping also got an update. It's now available in a handy, 7-oz aerosol spray can (5) in Extra Creamy, Lite and Original versions. The tall can makes topping off everyday treats fun and easy, and has a swirled white plastic overcap that resembles a dollop of the fluffy, white topping.

Unveiled in May, Cool Whip aerosol has an improved formula that holds its shape better on top of desserts, Kraft says. It also has a can nozzle that makes it handy to more evenly direct the product right where it's desired—on a cake, for example— as opposed to having to dole out a spoonful of product from the tub. The aerosol version can also be better used to decorate desserts and treats.

Kraft's Sydney Lindner, associate director of corporate affairs, tells PD that packaging details and supplier information for the products described are proprietary.

Campbell soups up V8 in cartons

Now, when you go to reach for soup on the shelf, you could have a V8. A real twist on Campbell Soup's V8® brand, known for its 100-percent vegetable juice, fruit-smoothies and fruit juice line in bottles and cans, is the launch of Campbell's V8 Soups (6) in ready-to-serve, cube-efficient, Combibloc Compact 500-mL (18.3-oz) aseptic, laminated paperboard cartons from SIG Combibloc ( The velvety smooth pureed soups include Golden Butternut Squash, Tomato Herb, Southwestern Corn, Sweet Red Pepper and Garden Broccoli. Being unveiled in August, the new soups will sell nationally for $2.99 each at supermarkets and mass-merchandise stores.

V8 soup cartons will be filled/packaged at Campbell's Toronto manufacturing facility on an existing CB6 filler, also from SIG Combibloc. The package is a composite carton made of paperboard, PE and foil, with the outer paperboard coated with PE to keep moisture out. The package also has a middle PE coating. The foil protects the product from light, odors and oxygen. An inner PE coating provides a liquid barrier.

Campbell USA's Liesl Henderson, director of sales communcations, describes the new line as a marriage of great-tasting Campbell's soups and the vegetable nutrition of V8 juices. The soups provide a delicious way for consumers to enjoy the benefits of vegetables. “Consistent with our strategy to trade consumers up to higher levels of satisfaction centering on wellness, convenience and quality, we have launched Campbell's V8 soups,” she says. “We believe the soups will meet consumers' needs cenetered around wellness, convenience and quality. We expect them to be well received.”

Fresh ideas in petfoods

Pets are more important to consumers than ever before (see related article in this issue), and at FMI, the portion-packs were also going to the dogs and other pets. A few examples from FreshPet, which produces the Homestyle Select and Deli Fresh brands of refrigerated dog food, comprise fresh-refrigerated dog treats and dog food packed in pouches and chub-packs as well as thermoformed trays for dry/moist bites (7).

New Select Bites contain no preservatives or fillers, byproducts, corn or wheat, the Secaucus, NJ-based company says, adding that all of the chicken, meats and other ingredients are sourced locally.

Launched nationally last October, the Select Bites foods come in clear PET outer trays thermoformed by Direct Pak, Inc. ( The tray-pack holds two polypropylene vacuumized pouches from Sealed Air's Cryovac Div. (, and offers a 14-week refrigerated shelf life. The packs hold 14 oz of “gently cooked,” bite-sized foods, such as Chicken & Vegetable Recipe or Beef & Vegetable Dinner—the same foods found in the company's chub-packs, but with the convenience of an open-and-serve tray that eliminates the need to slice up the food.

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