Food Industry Collaboration Creates New Fresh Snack Packaging

Milliken’s NX Ultra Clear PP concentrates play key role in “Pick Your Plate” concept.

Tell the truth! When you hear the word ‘snack”, do you not envision some not-so-healthy option like potato chips or other such salty, crunchy things? And, while there’s a whole lot of new technology—much of it plastics based—that has come about to improve the packaging of traditional snacking foods, we don’t often hear of new packaging for fresh foods in the deli/prepared food sector. Well, a recent collaboration of food industry leaders, Milliken & Co. and a plastic processor, resulted in clear, microwaveable, modular PP packaging for hot and cold “fresh-food” snacks.

Milliken, along with manufacturer of thermoformed and printed packaging Display Pack, Cedar Springs, MI, were asked to join a team comprised of Tyson Foods, Rich Products Corp., and a leading retailer to create the “Pick Your Plate” plastic packaging concept. According to Amber Langston, channel marketing manager at Tyson Foods, their research is showing that there is a significant growth opportunity for snacking within the deli/prepared foods department. “Currently, the majority—58%—of shoppers look to center store to fulfill their snacking needs; while the deli only captures 18%.”

Aiming to capitalize on this potential growth, the resulting Pick Your Plate packaging design and material address the need of both consumers and operators:

● The power to mix & match for a completely customized snack or meal

● Microwaveable for reheating at home or workplace

● Approved for both hot and cold cases

● Glass-like clarity (lid and base)

● Easy recyclability

The concept consists of a rigid plastic tray with four-wedge cavities in which consumers can place individual 10-oz or 20-oz lidded tubs of prepared hot or cold food. The tray facilitates carrying multiple containers, and doubles as a plate. Alternatively, shoppers can choose a single container without the tray. All components are microwaveable, which avoids the inconvenience of having to transfer the food to another dish. Milliken NX UltraClear PP concentrate is used in the PP tubs and lids. The company launched these concentrates—which are based on Milliken’s Millad NX 8000 fourth-generation nonitol-based clarifier, which has been shown to produce 50% less haze at any part thickness than previous benchmark clarifiers.

“Pick Your Plate packaging takes a different approach to the traditional grab-n-go formats in supermarkets, which are typically for larger, meal-size portions…Our new concept targets consumers who don’t want to be limited by having to purchase pre-packaged, highly processed snacks like granola bars and chips. The customization capabilities of Pick Your Plate are further enhanced by the clarity and microwaveability of our NX UltraClear material,” said Milliken’s Business Development Manager Emily Blair.

In addition to a satisfying consumer experience, the Pick Your Plate concept offer advantages for store operators. Deli/prepared food employees need not worry if a package is hot-case approved. Using one type of packaging for both hot and cold foods also helps simplify the supply chain and reduce inventory. Said Kristi Robey, culinary manager with Rich Products, “This convenient packaging design is suitable for a wide range of fresh, prepared foods, like our Authentic Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork, Beef Brisket or Chicken…in addition to prepared foods, desserts and other bakery items would work well with the packaging. Basically, if it can be sold as a smaller portion, it can be included in this concept.”

Other food product ideas recommended by the Pick Your Plate team include: fresh fruits, prepared salads, green salads, boneless chicken wings or tenders, meatballs, calzones, olives, fresh vegetables, dips, sides and cheese/meat combos.

Display Pack’s rigid thermoformed packaging designs can withstand processing environments, protect the product throughout distribution and enhance the consumer experience. Summed up Andy Blackmore, the company’s director of sales & marketing, “We believe that the concept of selecting individually packaged items to customize a snack or small meal is the first of its kind in the fresh prepared food arena…the Pick Your Plate collaboration has produced an innovative concept that will open retailers’ and food manufacturers’ eyes to the close relationship between fresh prepared foods and high-quality packaging. 

Pick Your Plate tray Tyson Milliken