A new, holistic approach to food packaging is set to change the materials used in packaging dramatically in the next two years, particularly for meals on wheels and institutional kitchens.
Confoil has released new paper-based packaging systems that have already seen many users of aluminium and plastic trays make the switch.
Research from the United States indicates food providers in institutional settings have a set of purchase criteria that favours paperboard over aluminium and plastic packaging. Heat retention, cost, ease of opening and prevention of cross contamination, were rated “very important” by at least 70% of those surveyed, while 83.5% considered it either somewhat or very important that packaging could withstand both microwave and conventional ovens.
The research was sponsored by US packaging machinery company, Oliver, which developed a packaging system of multi-cavity trays, high quality sealing film and a range of sealing equipment to suit kitchens of all sizes based on the research findings. Releasing the system in March, Confoil marketing manager Colin Foster said it was also a natural fit for Australian food providers.
“Our experience is that Australian kitchens share the same interests as those surveyed in the US,” Colin said. “Paperboard is the only material that offers this cluster of benefits and now pairing the right tray designs with cost-effective sealing equipment and film has delivered on its promise. This and the multi-cavity trays developed by Oliver in response to the need for the prevention of cross contamination identified by the research have clearly hit a nerve with Australians too.”
The sealing of food packaging trays has long been a thorn in the sides of low to medium volume users. Many kitchens had been calling for a sealing system that was faster and more automated than manually operated sealers but less expensive than the high-end equipment used in large-scale food production.
“A lot of users, especially institutional kitchens and meals on wheels providers, told us there was nothing on the market to seal either our own paperboard Dualpak containers or the plastic alternatives that suited both their budgets and their operations,” Colin said.
“This system from Oliver not only solves that problem but brings a lot of added functionality. Food providers can present plated-up meals that are easy to open, where elements of the meal like sauces stay separate, remain warmer for longer and are comfortable to rest on your lap than either foil or plastic alternatives.”
The new system released in March by Confoil allows kitchens to pack and seal meals at rates of anywhere from six to 35 food trays per minute, filling a hole in the market with immediate impact.
“People who wanted to get away from manual operations faced price tags of around $50,000 making automation unviable but now automation is easily justified, even by those with throughput rates of just a few trays per hour,” Colin said.
“The Oliver system has only been here a few weeks and already, it’s prompted a rush of people changing over from aluminium and plastic containers to paperboard trays.”