t the U.K. food processors that supply a certain large supermarket retailer, single-serve meals are quite literally on the move. Egg and sausage breakfasts and salmon, rice and broccoli dinners move down conveyor belts at the rate of 40 units per minute. That speed is essential to pushing 200 million units per year through the retailer's supply chain.
That speed sometimes comes with a cost. Between filling and labeling, sealing issues can occur. Anything that compromises the packaging will lead to spoilage in warehouses or on store shelves. Food processing plants have quality control steps designed to identify and dispose of those improperly sealed packages.
This waste impacts the bottom lines of companies and the management of resources. Food and beverage companies in the United Kingdom have a significant opportunity for improvement regarding the sustainable management of energy and water, according to in Sealed Air’s Global Resource Management Index. And it’s imperative to the industry’s success not to squander those resources further.
“Sealing issues encompass about 2 percent of production for food processors,” says Andy Stratton, retail manager for Northwest Europe at Sealed Air. “That’s enough to make a significant financial difference.”
That impact is only expected to grow. The global ready meal industry was worth $72 billion in 2016 and is projected to double by 2023. Driving this increase are elderly and young people who don’t want to cook and families who are increasingly eating separately. These groups are looking for the convenience of prepared meals and easy opening packaging without sharding — a “one piece peel.”
As the ready meal market continues to grow, so do the number of sealing challenges. Inefficiencies scale up right along with the manufacturing, and this large supermarket retailer needed a way to reduce the number of sealing issues they were disposing of in their processing plants.
So Stratton and the Sealed Air Food Care’s Packaging U.K. team had the solution: Sealed Air’s Cryovac® Sealappeal® OSF film. This thinner lidding film allows for the use of lesser inferior materials and maximizes products’ visibility thanks to its anti-fog properties. But it also provided an additional benefit for the large supermarket retailer.
“You can peel off the film, reload it and reseal it, reducing the products and profits wasted.”
“Sealappeal OSF seals through contamination and provides the potential for the supermarket’s processors to return packs with sealing issues back to be re-sealed,” Stratton explains. “You can peel off the film, reload it and reseal it, reducing the products and profits wasted in the process.”
The packaging also reduced retailer waste for these ready meals. Sealappeal OSF allowed more of the supermarket’s ready meal products to be put through the post-pack pasteurization process, which uses heat to destroy any cross-contamination on the packaging. This innovative packaging doubled the shelf life from 6 days to 12 days and allowed the retailer to sell more inventory before it spoiled.
Through the combination of eliminating sealing waste and extending the shelf life of their ready meals, the large supermarket retailer reduced waste in their supply chain by about 5 percent.
Beyond that waste reduction, shoppers also saw a benefit. When someone takes a ready meal out of the microwave, the film historically has not come off in one piece. Too often, it splits. But the Sealappeal OSF film has been designed to detach in one piece every time. Removing that frustration has improved the customer experience and increased the likelihood of repeat buyers as well.
“Eliminating waste from the food supply chain adds significant value,” Stratton says. “The large supermarket retailer has seen the implementation of this as beneficial, and the processor and retailer are working to introduce Sealappeal OSF lidding film across more of their product lines.”