The consumer-friendly packaging allows for easier preparation, less waste and less mess. 
Man makes fire. Man cooks food.


Fast forward a couple of million years. Busy man or woman wonders what to make for dinner. Busy man or woman doesn’t have a lot of time. Busy man or woman buys a convenient barbecue meal.

Throughout the millennia, people have loved the taste of barbecue foods. But these days, the time spent smoking or grilling outside is largely related to weekends and other times that are less hectic. To deliver on the craving for ‘cue and the simultaneous demand for convenience, Rupari Food Services, South Holland, Illinois, offers a full line of ready-to-eat sauced and unsauced ribs, barbecue pork and barbecue chicken under the Tony Roma’s and Butcher’s Prime brands and available in consumer-friendly packaging for easier preparation, less waste and less mess.

Kristin Kroepfl, vice president of marketing for Rupari Food Services, underscores the need to light a proverbial fire under product development to deliver on convenience and flavor when it comes to barbecue. “According to our research, 42 percent of people have less than 30 minutes of free time in the afternoon and evening, and the amount of time families spend eating dinner together is dwindling. Despite the fact that 74 percent believe dinner is a great opportunity to connect as a family, the majority of families only spend about 12 minutes eating together,” she points out.

As a result, Kroepfl says, consumers are looking for less prep time and more together time at dinner. “Sixty percent say they would rather extend the quality time they spend with their family at dinner than spend it toiling in the kitchen, which is a shift from years past where a higher value was placed on hands-on time spent preparing dinner in the kitchen.”

Meeting the dueling hot trends of barbecue foods and easy preparation and serving, Kroepfl says the company has taken a new look at the ways in which it delivers products. “Our innovations demonstrate a commitment to providing quality barbecue in a way that fits into busy lives. As the time crunch becomes more pronounced, we’re investing in products that cut hands-on prep and cleanup time to virtually zero, and that gives consumers a quality barbecue meal they can fully enjoy together any night of the week,” she remarks.

Importance of Packaging

Even as Rupari’s product development team works on new sauces and preparation methods for its ribs and barbecue, the company also keeps packaging top of mind.

For example, Rupari recently introduced a new aluminum pan package for Tony Roma’s ribs. The ribs are placed directly in the pan and sealed over the top with a skin pack film. To prepare, the consumer peels away the top film and places the pan directly in the oven or on the grill. Ultimately, consumers cook the ribs in the package and use the pan to serve them, reducing the number of steps, increasing convenience and nearly eliminating cleanup.

Previously, Tony Roma’s ribs were sold in plastic sleeves, which required the use of scissors to remove the meat and sauce. The durable aluminum pan also helps ensure greater package integrity, given the nature of bone-in products like ribs.

The ribs aren’t the only package to get a makeover. Tony Roma’s pulled pork, pulled chicken and boneless spare ribs lines are now available in a plastic microwave- and oven-safe pan in the shape of a smoker to showcase the naturally hardwood smoked meat.

Addressing the different ways people prepare and serve barbecue foods, the new aluminum pan for ribs and CPET smoker tray for pulled barbecue meats are versatile, in that they can be cooked on the grill, in the oven or, for the smoker tray, in the microwave. “The function of the packaging has changed to be more convenient for the consumer, with an easy-open, peel-away top film and a convenient heat-in-pack structure. It’s a hands-free dinner,” Kroepfl says.

While the new formats are durable and ready to place on the grill or in the oven, they also allow for effective merchandising at the point of sale. “The new packaging lets consumers see the meat through the package so they can check for quality and freshness at retail before they purchase,” Kroepfl notes.

According to Kroepfl, the new packaging takes into account customer feedback and utilizes the latest in packaging materials and design. “Through a series of internal and external sessions examining how consumers interact with packaging, we identified solutions to remove steps from dinner prep and work with consumer preferred appliances.” She adds that the integrated approach also helped enhance the brand identity of the product lines.

In addition to convenience, package integrity and quality, the new aluminum pan and smoker tray packaging also take into account the type and amount of packaging used, at a time when sustainability is another driver of consumer concern. The Tony Roma’s rib package is both fully recyclable and reusable, while the smoker tray is also recyclable and uses less paperboard and plastic film compared to the previous format.

The launch of the new packaging is timed with grilling season, when the pan and trays can be quickly and easily placed on a grill for cooking or smoking. The package redesign coincides with some product development at Rupari Food Services, too. This spring, the Tony Roma’s brand added new varieties, including Memphis Dry Rub Ribs, Kentucky Bourbon Steaks, Texas Pulled Brisket and a Memphis Rubbed Pulled Pork.