These days, various retailers in Europe are experimenting with new packaging solutions for minced meat, primarily based on the goal of reducing plastic content and improving recyclability. This has, for example, led to the introduction of flow packs, sometimes also referred to as pillow packs. The reactions among consumers, as well as within the meat and packaging industry, are mixed.
Although the plastic content may sometimes be slightly less, these new minced meat packs appear to be more vulnerable in their handling. It is claimed that, since the packs are somewhat inflated, the product inside will not be crushed. Fact is, the product is tumbling around more on the retail shelves, not improving product appearance. Due to their balloon shape, such packs are also hard to stack and require more volume in logistics. This means more trucks on the road! Furthermore, their on-the-shelf presentation often looks like a mess, providing a continuous and costly job for retail personnel in keeping the supermarket shelves tidy.
One of the alternative packaging solutions, which apparently has not been considered that much yet, is flexible film packaging under modified atmosphere on a thermoformer. With this solution, it is still possible to use thin plastic films and to apply modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) for optimal shelf life and color retention, but with the additional benefit of creating packs that are flatter so that they can easily be stacked during storage, transport, and on the retail shelves. Furthermore, the thermoformer will consume less gas and achieve better residual oxygen values inside the pack, as the vacuum / gas process is fully controlled and not done with gas flushing, like on the flow packer.
Last but not least, by using a thermoformer instead of a flow packer, the manufacturer is not limited to just one packaging solution, but has the option of applying skin packaging, shrink packaging, flexible film vacuum packaging (also used for minced meat in particular countries), and many other packaging concepts on the same base machine as well. In other words: this thermoformer is a much more future-proof investment!
Another common way to package minced meat is by using pre-formed trays. In fact, tray-sealing has been the global standard since the introduction of industrial self-service packaging in the early 2000s. Nowadays, with the introduction of so-called ultra-light trays, preferably made of mono-PP or mono-PET, the consumption of plastic has been significantly reduced as well. Reliable and accurate handling, stack ability, product protection, flawless optics, and excellent shelf life are just some of the benefits that these trays still offer to retailers, food manufacturers, and consumers.
SEALPAC, in close cooperation with its partners, has succeeded in reducing the material of the 190x144mm fresh meat tray, the most common size used in for example Europe, from 18 grams in 2003 to well below 10 grams today. Despite the extremely low weight of this tray, the recently launched SEALPAC Amax-series traysealers still guarantee excellent handling and processing, even in high-speed applications such as for minced meat.
Why thermoforming or tray-sealing over flow packaging?
Benefits at a glance
- Optimal product presentation due to high-quality packs
- Increased stack ability, hence optimizing logistics and in-store handling
- Using the same amount of plastics, but with the option of integrating easy opening systems
- Optimal shelf life and color retention by applying vacuum / gas technology instead of gas flushing
- Future-proof investment since the traysealer and thermoformer can run multiple packaging systems on the same base machine