Poultry processors continue to work on developing innovative ways of packaging raw and cooked poultry products. Today’s consumers are looking for convenience when it comes to storing, opening and cooking the product. Manufacturers are looking for packaging that address shelf-life; packaging that is flexible and versatile amongst multiple product platforms; and packaging that could potentially help processors, retailers and consumers continue to keep food safe at the plant, in the store and at home.

This spring, meat and poultry industry suppliers, manufacturers and processors will gather in Frankfurt, Germany, May 4-9, for the international IFFA show. IFFA is the leading international trade fair for packaging, processing and sales in the meat industry, held every three years. IFFA offers a comprehensive overview of the new products, ideas and trends in the packaging industry. At the 2013 show, Hall 11 of the Frankfurt Fair and Exhibition Centre will bring together the leading manufacturers of packaging technology, measuring and weighing equipment as well as top suppliers from the processing and cutting segment.

IFFA organizers expect to see “products showcased by the exhibitors that reflect the major challenges facing the entire meat industry.” Show organizers said Hall 11 will feature, “products from packaging manufacturers designed for energy-efficient processing and further developments from the manufacturers of packaging materials in terms of barrier packaging.”

The meat and poultry industry is looking for new packaging solutions utilizing materials that are lighter, more transparent, more resistant during processing and also more flexible. “There are already solutions available on the market that optimize existing machinery with regard to energy efficiency and flexibility,” according to IFFA representatives.

“The packaging sector is working at introducing products that are safer and have a longer shelf-life.”

Many of the packaging-materials manufacturers heading to IFFA produce new film-based concepts for new kinds of packaging for meat, poultry and other food products. These offer both longer shelf-life and more consumer-friendly handling (i.e. ease of opening and resealability).

Packaging companies will also address the continuing need to provide products that help with the marketing challenges of making poultry products more appealing to the customer at point-of-sale.

Consumer is king

Pack Expo International, held in Chicago, Ill., Oct. 28-31, 2012, featured a variety of packaging innovations for the meat and poultry industry. Lynn Dornblaser, director, Innovation & Insight, Mintel Group Ltd., Chicago, made several observations about packaging trends in meat and poultry products as she toured the show floor.

“One trend is the job some companies are doing to help ensure consumers [get] wholesome products,” Dornblaser said. “That could mean [providing product in] an IQF (individually quick-frozen) chicken breast portion or more likely vacuum-packaged individual portions in a multi-pack. It is very convenient for consumers; they can take out what they want, and they toss the remainder in the freezer.”

Another trend is more meat and poultry products are being packed for two. “That really ties into shifts in demographics we see with more one- and two-person households, maybe some people who have become empty nesters,” Dornblaser said. “Having smaller families or no families to feed other than yourself and a spouse, makes that smaller portion size [for two] more sensible for a lot of families.”

A variety of packaging suppliers offer vacuum-packaging options in smaller-sized portions for poultry products. Individually-portioned vacuum-sealed packages can be packaged together using perforated packaging film. This provides consumers with the option of purchasing larger quantities of poultry at one time, but only using the product they need.

Multivac produces a wide range of poultry packaging solutions for its customer base, which includes packaging for fresh and prepared poultry, convenience food, ready meals, cooked and frozen products. According to Multivac, its packaging solutions “are designed to meet a number of requirements such as enhanced shelf -life, production of the product, preservation of color, easy handling and overall appearance.” Poultry packaging includes vacuum packaging, MAP packaging and skin packaging.

From high-barrier to highly breathable, from microwavable to cook-in, Curwood offers a wide packaging selection to poultry processors.

  • Breathable laminate films and pre-made pouches can be printed with high-impact graphics plus incorporate reclose features.
  • Cook-in films and bags are used for deli loaves and whole birds.
  • ICE Breathable Films for vacuum packaging allow off-gassing and are ideal for saddle-packs and other fresh or freezable portions.
  • ICE High-Barrier Forming and Non-Forming Films for MAP packaging deliver exceptional shelf life and no leaks.
  • Shrink bags including Eco-Tite and Perflex bags for fresh or frozen poultry offer exceptional shrink for a tight fit.
  • Tray & lid systems for gas-flush applications extend shelf life, with printable lidding films to reduce secondary labeling.
  • VSP films conform to fresh or prepared meats for a premium, skintight presentation.

Kitchen aid

To meet consumer demands for convenience, manufacturers have developed packaging that can add value to the products inside. Some packaging technology can actually help consumers in the kitchen. Leak-proof packaging is ideal for marinated poultry.

Cook-in packaging also offers convenience to consumers. The oven-safe packaging can be put directly in the oven and the poultry cooks inside the bag, providing a fool-proof cooking method to help consumers who need some assistance in the kitchen. It also provides a convenient, mess-free option as the cook can easily discard the packaging and the mess after the cooking is complete. In addition, consumers can avoid cross contamination and potential resulting food safety issues.

As packaging suppliers continue to develop new systems and technologies to provide poultry processors with the best tools to package their products it’s essential to keep the end-user top of mind. In the end, poultry packaging needs to be versatile, flexible and user-friendly.