Karl Deily, SVP & Chief Commercial Officer at Sealed Air

Celebrating a history of innovation

In 1981, I was finishing my graduate work at Clemson University in South Carolina. My thesis was on optimization of packaging parameters to increase the shelf-life of fresh peaches and shredded lettuce. I was right down the road from what was then the R&D center for Cryovac. Utilizing the center’s materials for my research, I was very aware of the R&D capabilities. I hoped that my focus in packaging, food science and microbiology matched with Cryovac’s drive to be a leader in the food packaging sector. As fate would have it, I applied for an entry level packaging specialist job with Cryovac in R&D and was very fortunate to land the position.

About 35 years later, I’m still here, re-imagining daily how we package and protect food (Cryovac was acquired by Sealed Air in 1998).

This year, Sealed Air is looking back at the 75-year history of our revolutionary food packaging brand Cryovac®. It’s fascinating to rediscover how the minds behind Cryovac were thinking about then what we know today as our value drivers: shelf-life extension, operational efficiency, brand building and food safety.

Before the start of World War II, a French inventor named Henry DePoix coined and created the Cryovac process while trying to find a better way to preserve meat for French soldiers stationed at the country’s Germany-facing borders. In 1938, when he brought his idea to American businessman Bradley Dewey Sr., co-founder of Dewey & Almy Chemical Company, the two knew immediately that Cryovac would change the availability, quality and processing of food, and bring value to entire market.

Looking back, it isn’t hard to see how “courageous determination,” one of Sealed Air’s core values, is also an important part of brand heritage.

The 1940s was a time when fresh meat was being sold by the loin or the haunch, and the food industry was not ready to explore progressive concepts like “frozen beef.” Through the war and into the 1950s, Dewey, Sr., and the Cryovac management team not only struggled to get the industry to adopt shrink-wrapped food packaging solutions, but they also needed to patent a durable, flexible, graphic-ready plastic material and machines to help automate the Cryovac process.

Despite very real obstacles, including a lack of investment capital, Dewey put together an ambitious sales team and opened Cryovac plants across North America, Australia and Europe. He even agreed to let Cryovac be acquired in 1954 to keep the concept alive and further expand the business. It was an aggressive global strategy well before Cryovac took off later in the 1960s expanding into Asia and Latin America.

When Cryovac became part of Sealed Air in 1998, this legacy continued through our people, our innovation and most of all our spirit to make the impossible possible.

This history of innovation is also at the heart of how Sealed Air Food Care is approaching the future. Courageous determination brought us here. Purposeful innovation has kept us ahead of trends and in step with customers’ and consumers’ focus on helping the environment and addressing important issues like food waste and food safety. Uncompromising ethics keeps us locked on developing sustainable solutions with a commitment to making a difference. With ingenious collaboration, we maintain an environment where remarkable people working together can achieve remarkable things.

They say history repeats itself. I say, I hope this is true if it means with our innovative spirit and talent we are continuing to change the world.

Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn, follow @SealedAirFood on Twitter, and “like” our new Sealed Air Food Care Facebook page.