Packaging innovations that shorten preparation time for time-stressed consumers and foodservice operators are being developed at a fast clip. While new products must taste good to ensure potential for repeat sales, it’s also a given that the quicker a product can be prepared, the better it is for consumers at home and restaurant diners.

As a result, new, more convenient product introductions with a wide variety of packaging features abound. The following are just some of the more recent packaging innovations.

In October, St. Cloud, Minn.-based Gold’n Plump added Pesto and Mesquite flavors to its seasoned, whole-chicken line, which already contains flavors including Lemon Pepper and Sweet BBQ.

“Offering on-trend new seasonings of our premium whole chickens in no-touch, convenient, bake-in-bag packaging minimizes preparation and clean-up to maximize family time,” said Sara Danforth, new product development manager for GNP Co.

In late September, it was announced that select Walmart stores would begin offering Mix & Match Creations. This new meal solution, produced by Tyson Foods Inc. and Birds Eye, allows consumers to build customized meals by combining one of five Tyson Foods proteins, one of eight family-sized servings of Birds Eye frozen vegetables or starch and one of six Tyson Bistro Flavors sauces.

Mix & Match Creations products are packaged in color-coded flexible packaging (red for meat, blue for sides and green for sauces), and recipe cards are available at the freezer case. Average prep time is 15 minutes, and prices for the meals start at $10.There are 76 possible meal combinations, such as Sautéed Beef with Bourbon Peppercorn sauce and Mixed Vegetables or Breaded Chicken served with White Rice with an Orange Teriyaki Glaze.

“Some people think making a sit-down meal for their family takes a lot of time for planning, purchasing and preparing,” said Louis Gottsponer, senior vice president of frozen value-added meals for Tyson Foods. “Mix & Match Creations products allow families to make satisfying meals quickly, easily and inexpensively.”

Maintaining quality

Smithfield Foodservice launched its new, convenient Cook-in-Bag Smoked Pork Butt in September. This product was designed to make it easy for foodservice operators to maintain fresh-pork quality with a right-from-the-smoker taste without using special cooking equipment.

“Barbecue pork dishes are always popular, and the growth in sales volume over the past few years makes it clear that restaurant patrons can’t get enough,” said Kristen Orr, associate brand manager for Smithfield Foodservice. “Our Cook-in-Bag Smoked Pork Butt is an innovative, easy way for operators to meet this demand.”

Each 8-lb., bone-in butt is wrapped in a pre-smoked net, infusing flavor throughout the cooking process as the pork develops its signature barbecue bark. The vacuum-sealed packaging helps reduce cross-contamination risks and allows the pork to cook evenly.

Agri Beef Co., Boise, Idaho, launched Seal Fresh, a new line of case-ready retail products, in August that feature no-leak packaging and ease of access.

“Our Seal Fresh line gives consumers easier access to premium beef products that are freezer-ready or can last in the refrigerator for days,” said Jay Theiler, executive director of marketing for Agri Beef.

Seal Fresh packages are clear and airtight. Bone-in products have 21-day chilled shelf-life, while boneless cuts stay fresh up to 28 days, the company relayed. The beef ages naturally in the package and consumers can prepare the meat at their leisure. Seal Fresh products can easily be frozen and defrosted for later use. Product is available under the company’s Double R Ranch brand.

Leesburg, Ind.-based Maple Leaf Farms announced in July it was transitioning to new vacuum-skin packaging for all retail raw duck breast and duck leg products. The company planned starting a nationwide rollout in July that included traditional grocery stores, specialty retailers and meat markets. The company is a leading producer of duck products, supplying global retail and foodservice markets with value-added foods.

“This packaging change has been the catalyst for additional product enhancement,” said Cindy Turk, director of duck marketing.

The company’s vacuum-skin packed duck breast is available plain or in roasted garlic and honey orange marinades. Products are available fresh or frozen, in 7.5-oz. duck-breast packages with nine packages per case. Product can be displayed upright in customized trays or on a merchandising pegboard.

“The new retail packaging and product enhancements will expose more consumers to discover the benefits of duck,” Turk said.

In October 2012, Hayward, Calif.-based Columbus Foods launched its new Farm to Fork Naturals line in response to consumer demand for minimally processed, pre-sliced meats that taste great.

Columbus is expanding its offerings with seven new products – three deli meat and four salame varieties – which are minimally processed with no added nitrites or nitrates and made from hogs and turkeys humanely raised on family farms with no antibiotics and fed 100 percent vegetarian feeds.

“We saw a great opportunity to bring the superior flavor and product quality Columbus is known for to all-natural, pre-sliced deli products,” said Tim Fallon, CEO of Columbus Foods.

Turkey-deli products are made from whole turkey breasts, lightly seasoned and slow-roasted. Flavors include Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, Honey Roasted Turkey Breast and Smoked Turkey Breast.

Farm to Fork Salame is made with 100 percent pork and include some of Columbus’ most popular recipes: Uncured Fennel Salame, Uncured Genoa Salame, Uncured Italian Dry Salame and Uncured Sopressata Salame.

All company deli meats are packaged using High Pressure Processing. Columbus’ Farm to Fork Naturals deli meats are available in 6-oz. peel-and-reseal packaging and the salame is sold in a 4-oz. package. The full line is available now at select natural food stores.

Easy-open bags

Early last year, Greeley, Colo.-based JBS USA announced plans to pack some of its premium beef products in easy-open bags for foodservice customers. The new package features Sealed Air’s new Cryovac QuickRip Bag. “With an eye toward minimizing yield loss and creating an overall exceptional experience in the premium meat category, JBS saw an opportunity to help its customers by working with Sealed Air’s Cryovac brand to provide a package that would enhance employee and product safety, improve back-of-house efficiencies and reduce product waste,” JBS said in a press release.

The company planned to use the bag for its JBS Aspen Ridge and Cedar River Natural Beef lines. The bag was already in use with the 1855 Premium Beef line at the time of this announcement. JBS officials said the bags eliminate the need for knives and other sharp tools to open products. The new bags have helped reduce the risk of employee injury from sharp objects and product gouges and scores that can lead to waste and cross contamination.

In January 2013, McDonald’s announced it planned to place QR codes in new packaging designs on carry-out bags and fountain beverage cups. This initiative was launched to provide nutrition information.

McDonald’s roll-out of the new design started in the US and will continue worldwide through 2013. The new packaging features a blend of text, illustrations and a QR code that will deliver information about the McDonald’s brand and make nutrition information easily accessible from mobile devices. “Customers tell us they want to know more about the food they are eating and we want to make that as easy as possible by putting this information right at their fingertips,” said Kevin Newell, McDonald’s chief brand officer.

In May 2013, Smithfield Foods’ Gwaltney brand unveiled a redesigned logo and new packaging for its line of hot dogs, bologna, lunchmeats, sausage and bacon products – the first redesign in more than 20 years. Design North, Racine, Wis., collaborated with the Gwaltney marketing team to plan the rebranding and execute the redesign, including new photography.

“The package artwork has been updated to reinvigorate the product’s presence on grocery store shelves and to bring organization within and across categories to improve the shop-ability of the brand,” said Will Brunt, vice president of marketing.

Gwaltney launched the “Gweatness of Gwaltney” marketing campaign to support the new logo and packaging design, and have fun with the brand’s name.

Packaging features will continue to play an important role in new-product introductions. Whether they beef up the convenience or preparation factor while cooking at home or help to speed-up preparation or enhance worker safety for chefs and kitchen workers at the foodservice level, these features will help drive repeat sales of such products for years to come.