The clock is ticking. The sell-by date is looming. For foodservice operators who sell perishable foods to go, managing the fleeting shelf life of the product is a constant challenge.
That’s why some operators with a knack for to-go food partner with a company known for innovation in food packaging and eagerness to collaborate with customers.
“Ultimately, the quality and shelf life of prepackaged to-go food is about the package choice,” says Susan Edwards, Foodservice Business Development Manager, North America, for Sealed Air Corp.’s Food Care Division, of which Cryovac® brand food packaging is a part.
When Edwards and her fellow Sealed Air team members confer with the customer’s culinary, operations and marketing people early in the project, ideally in the ideation stage, there is ample time to work out a variety of vital issues.
For example, which type of package ensures optimum peak shelf life for the product? Does the package need to stand up for merchandising effect near the register or in a refrigerated case? Should it be in an easy-open format, like Sealed Air’s Cryovac® Grip & Tear® bag, so that it can be easily and safely opened by on-the-go consumers? Does it need a functional feature such as a pourable fitment or a recloseable seal? Perhaps the package needs a modified atmosphere to maintain the integrity of highly perishable foods?
“When we are involved in the project up front, we understand the concept, how it is to be marketed and what packaging features are needed,” says Edwards. “We bring an understanding of current trends in packaging and which types work best in the foodservice format.”
Although restaurant operators are obviously skilled in preparing and serving food for consumption on site, they may not be as well-versed in ensuring the freshness and quality of the to-go food that leaves the premises. Often, decisions made about packaging have a major impact on the success of a to-go food program.
For example, active barrier films, such as Sealed Air’s Freshness Plus® , keep oxygen from entering the package and absorb oxygen already inside to protect the quality and appearance of the food.
In addition to picking up microwave-ready foods to go, consumers also like to take out semi-prepared foods that require a little basic work at home. These items may need special packaging to maintain freshness until it is time to prepare them. An example is fresh pasta as a grab-and-go item. It needs an active barrier package to maintain its freshness until the consumer is ready to cook it.
When it comes to packaging hot food to go, the Cryovac® Simple Steps® package with lid and tray enables restaurant operators to prepare a chef-inspired, restaurant-quality meal on-site and have it ready to go home to be enjoyed while still hot.
Also intended for hot restaurant food to go is a new application of Cryovac® Oven Ease® bags, the ovenable packaging system that many restaurant operators currently use to cook whole turkeys, hams and roasts. What is new is that now restaurant operators can use Oven Ease® packaging to prepare to-go meals for their customers quickly and consistently on site.
In fact, the excellent holding capability of Oven Ease® bags helps operators keep to-go menu items hot and appetizing until they are picked up. Placing those foods prematurely in to-go containers not only risks having them become cold before consumers can enjoy them, it also increases the odds that the contents will dry out.
But thanks to the Oven Ease® package, a consumer can take home a hot and tasty, fully cooked Chicken Cacciatore meal, complete with vegetables and sauce, that needs only to be opened and served. In light of the convenience and quality of Oven Ease® meals, Edwards foresees a day when consumers will frequent local restaurants to take home hot, ready-to-serve dishes, much like they rely on grocery rotisserie chickens as meal solutions today.
Sealed Air is ready to share its expertise to help operators navigate the complex and challenging issues of food to go packaging. For more information, visit cryovac.com or call 800-391-5645.