Whole-bird packaging must combine form and function to protect the product while appealing to consumers.
Whole-bird packaging must combine form and function.

Packaging Solutions

Packaging with purpose

Interactive packaging is already being used in different and insightful ways. Recently, Wichita, Kansas-based Cargill launched a traceable turkey pilot program using blockchain technology for whole birds sold under the Honeysuckle White brand. Consumers can enter an on-package code on the brand’s website to find out more about the particular turkey farm. The technology also enables consumers to access a product finder website to find retailers who offer the traceable birds.

Just Bare Chicken, St. Cloud, Minnesota, a brand of Pilgrim’s Pride subsidiary, GNP Co. also touts transparency with clear packaging and a traceability feature. Consumers use a five-digit code on the Just Bare package to discover where the chicken was raised and by whom.

Kieny agrees that today’s packaging systems are more shopper friendly. “Consumers tend to be drawn to skin tight packages decorated with enhanced graphics and visuals that reinforce the message that the bird within the package is fresh and safe to eat,” he observes. To deliver on that kind of messaging and merchandising, Coveris has developed a shrink bag with strong shrink properties and abuse resistance with the ability to print up to 10 colors on the front and back, he notes.

Beyond the use of graphics and colors, advances in materials and equipment can lead to a different type of on-package billboard effect. “The ability to see the bird is a relatively new concept, but clear shrink bags could begin to take the place of white, printed bags. New resins are available that allow for increased elongation and stretch, improving shrink properties and appearance of the finished package while reducing the risk of leakers,” Kieny explains. “Soon, processors will no longer need to rely on high-end graphics to promote the freshness of their birds -- the package will be able to tell that story for them.”

In some cases, the package will also do the cooking for them, to a certain degree. Oven-ready packaging, like the kind used for Hormel Foods, Jennie-O Turkey Store’s oven-ready birds and Butterball’s Ready to Roast oven-ready birds, among others, allows consumers to go from freezer to oven without thawing or other prep. “We are seeing more interest in that. People talk about convenience, and that fits in with the overall trend of what’s coming,” says Churchwell of Sealed Air’s Oven Ease packaging.

In addition to consumer-driven innovations in packaging for whole birds, other advances are geared to make operations easier and more efficient for processors. “On that point, we want to keep a low-cost package and help our customers manage the cost process,” declares Churchwell, noting that Sealed Air will introduce a new solution in early 2018, an automation that will help increase productivity and operational efficiency. “In that regard, you have more functional hours and get more production,” he says.

Likewise, Kearny says Bemis rollstock packaging for whole birds is designed to help processors in their day-to-day production. “There’s a big opportunity for reduced labor expenses, as you are eliminating the need to manually load the bags. The improved puncture resistance of shrink rollstock is also a benefit, which leads to reduced waste and rework in the plants, and provides a better retail experience for consumers compared to traditional polyethylene bags,” he explains, adding that shrink rollstock also helps operators improve worker ergonomics.