This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 edition of Food Processing Australia magazine.
Shelf life extension is critical for retailers and for consumers. Retailers are currently challenged by loss rates in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) case ready fresh meat cabinets, which we were using to supply fresh pork to retailers. We recognised markdowns and limited distribution as an opportunity for shelf life advancement,” Don KRC Fresh General Manager Matt Cartwright said.
“We knew that we needed to make an improvement and that was the essence of the brief we provided Sealed Air,” he added.
In addition to shelf life extension, Don KRC acknowledged that improvements to product aesthetics was a must, particularly for export markets, which generally demand higher standards.
Packed in a polypropylene tray and multilayer lidding film, the existing MAP solution achieved a shelf life of 14 days. While this served Don KRC’s current product range and business, the shelf life was deemed a limitation for further new product or market development.
Extensive trialling of Cryovac Darfresh skin packaging saw the product shelf life increase from 14 days to 28 days. This improvement allows a host of benefits to be realised by processors, retailers and consumers:
- More product movement at retail level leading to fewer markdowns and less waste.
- The absence of product purge facilitates extended shelf life and enhances consumer appeal.
- The total vacuum skin seal allows retailers to vertically display the products.
- Better merchandising and product aesthetics drives more sales and ultimately less waste at retail.
- The longer shelf life gives consumers a larger window to consume the product.
- Thanks to the skin-tight vacuum seal, consumers can conveniently freeze the product in its original package. The absence of ice crystals in vacuum-packed products prevents product dehydration and allows for a premium eating experience even after the product has been frozen.
- The easy-open feature is popular with consumers.
DON Fresh National Marketing & VA Manager Tina Pitman, who had overseen the project in partnership with Sealed Air’s Food Care division, shared that the new packaging enabled the company to become ultimately more competitive. “Darfresh vacuum skin packaging solved our previous distribution limitations with MAP, allowing us to be more efficient both operationally and logistically and for our products to reach their destination well presented,” she said.
Don KRC Fresh launched its So Tender fresh pork range in Darfresh skin in February 2016. The product has exceeded sales expectations with significant growth forecast into the next financial year. The switch from MAP to Darfresh skin saw an immediate spike in sales (just over 80%). Just over a year later, the project has been running strong. Tina Pitman said, “We have launched into 16 IGA stores across South Australia, and recently in March, So Tender was launched nationally into Food Works. Retail acceptance is strong and smaller stores have the confidence in the product as the extended shelf life is a key driver in reducing retail shrink.”
In terms of meeting Don KRC Fresh’s sustainability goals, Darfresh reduced the use of packaging by 12% compared to MAP. Further reductions were also applicable in the size of outer cartons used, which meant cost savings with transportation. “The new Darfresh packaging format has truly been a win- win proposition for everyone,” said Tina. “Consumers pick up the premium quality products with matching visual expectations. The environmental wins by using Darfresh have not only been realised with a reduction in transportation costs, reduced packaging costs and just as importantly the consumer discards less packaging after consumption, which is less landfill. It has excited our business!”
The new capabilities provided by Darfresh have propelled Don KRC’s readiness for the future and business expansion.“We are now able to capitalise and build upon the momentum of the local pork industry and lead the local producers’ foray into overseas markets,” Matt said.
“Don KRC is always looking to lead and support innovation in Australia’s pork industry. Exploring the Darfresh platform to drive expansion has been key to help drive that growth more effectively.”