CHICAGO -- A new type of case-ready packaging, which may have the potential to extend the shelf life of ground beef to 21 days, was presented by Cryovac, Duncan, S.C., at the Worldwide Food Expo here.
The new low-oxygen package -- which undergoes a vacuum process to remove air during processing -- was featured at Cryovac's booth at the WWFE. The booth included a meat case where Cryovac showed both new and already available technology that it is banking on to provide a total case-ready solution for retailers.
"We think this technology is going to change case-ready at retail," said Dee Reviere, director of marketing for case-ready at Cryovac, about the low-oxygen pack during a press conference presenting the new technology during the WWFE. "We felt we needed a national distribution package to give the retailer shelf life and flexibility.
"The new technology will allow you to have shelf life and bloom," and "no consumer wants to buy purple ground beef in a package that looks completely foreign to them," Reviere said.
The new packaging features a peel-back film that, once removed, allows meat to bloom in 20 to 30 minutes.
The low-oxygen pack has been test marketed in 1-, 2- and 3-pound packs at a limited number of Texas stores since June, according to Reviere.
The package sizes that will be made available for use in the low-oxygen format will vary depending on the needs of each retailer, said Karl Deily, executive director for marketing of food products at Cryovac.
"We will have 1- to 5-pound [packs], and maybe 8 and 10. Our intent is to supply the size trays that the retailers want," Deily explained.
Reviere declined to give details about the test market and the retail operator involved in it. He said it was too early to tell how the meat items using the new pack were selling.
He did say Cryovac is close to expanding its test market for the new packaging. "We think a lot of activity will occur in the first half of 1998," he said. "We have talked to retailers and there's a lot of interest."
Reviere explained that the new low-oxygen packs "allow intimate contact between the meat and the film, and maximize case space." This, he said, gives retailers the added advantage of allowing them to fill up both the package and the case.
He said the new case-ready technology would also allow retailers to redirect their meatcutters to put time and labor into the value-added products that have become so important to their customers.
Reviere said Cryovac had chosen to tackle ground beef first with the low-oxygen pack.
He added that the packaging technology was also available for pork, but that it hadn't yet been tested.
According to Reviere, the cost of the new packaging could run between 15 and 30 cents, depending on the size of the package. At first glance, these figures seem high when compared with the cost of conventional packaging, which Reviere estimates to be about five cents.
"Retailers will immediately hit me up about package cost," he admitted. "But what about shrink and rewrap? Right now we are a little more expensive on a per pound basis, but when you add in all the benefits -- like reduced shrink and reduced out of stocks, we believe that we can be less expensive."
The display case at Cryovac's booth was lined with the full range of its case-ready technology. Above it hung a poster of a train rushing past a station. It read "Still waiting for the right moment to catch the case-ready express?"
Another new case-ready option on display was an updated version of Cryovac's peelable vacuum skin packaging, which was introduced in April at the Meat Marketing Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The older version of the VSP package, which was also on display at the show, was deemed by some retailers to be too bulky and flimsy.
The new package is a small white barrier foam tray that Reviere called more rigid and consumer-friendly than its predecessor. The new smaller VSP pack has yet to be tested, and Reviere said Cryovac hopes to test it during the second quarter of 1998.
Cryovac also presented a variety of other case-ready options, like the series 2000 formfitting transparent packaging for pork and beef and the Bag-n-Bag system for roasts, which comes in barrier packs of two to four.
Reviere said the Bag-n-Bag offered about 14 to 21 days of shelf life and had a white area on the packaging where a tracking number and safe handling instructions could be printed. Reviere said that through the wide variety of Cryovac case-ready options presented at the show, "We believe that we have created a revolutionary new line of case-ready products that meets all the needs of the supermarket retailer."