ST. LOUIS -- Bunzl Distribution here has joined forces with Eastman Chemical Co. to promote the plastic manufacturer's VersaTray public awareness.
Containers made with the polymer can be used in both the microwave or conventional ovens. While the technology is not necessarily new, the fact that it is so clearly delineated for consumers with a "brand" logo is, and it is anticipated that new consumer demand for dual-ovenable containers will result.
Developed by Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical, VersaTray is dishwasher-safe and recyclable, constructed of a durable, flexible plastic, and designed to transport food items from the store to the freezer to a microwave or conventional oven and, finally, to the table.
New to the market this month, the branded packaging program is working with licensees, such as Tenneco Packaging and Ivex, who in turn will sublicense the program to end-users. While the sublicensees will have the labels printed, it is the actual food packagers and retailers who will attach the VersaTray logo onto the package. Bunzl will warehouse the trays and handle distribution to the retailers.
"By branding the product, we are taking things a step further than others have in the past," said Paul Scotti, vice president of marketing for Bunzl. "We want the consumers to be familiar enough with VersaTray that they come into a store and ask for it by name."
Eastman's market manager for food and specialty packaging, Brad Willingham, noted that dual-ovenable packages have been available for some time, but consumers are virtually unaware of their features and benefits.
"Research at the University of Georgia indicates that when consumers are made aware of the dual-ovenable option, 92% want it and 30% are even willing to pay more for [it]," he said. "This points to a need for consumer education about the differences among HMR packaging. [And] that's where the VersaTray plastic logo will help consumers cut through the clutter."
Every container produced is labeled with the VersaTray logo sticker, which immediately relays to the customer that the package is dual-ovenable. Trays constructed of VersaTray plastic are able to withstand temperatures from minus 40 degrees F up to 400 degrees F.
Philadelphia-based consumer marketing expert Mona Doyle has been enlisted by Eastman Chemical to act as spokeswoman for the image campaign. Previously, Willingham discussed Doyle's importance as spokeswoman for the product.
"She has recognition in the consumer part of the industry and will be taking the message to the consumer press and shopping networks," he said. "If all goes as we hope, consumers will see that VersaTray is the ultimate in convenience and quality." ("Versatile Fresh Meals Containers Unveiled," SN, Nov. 23, 1998.)
Bunzl Distribution is the largest division of London-based Bunzl plc. Headquartered in St. Louis, it operates 62 warehouses in North America that serve the United States, Canada and Mexico.