In the results-driven professional kitchen, time is always at a premium. Anything that saves a step, a minute or even a few seconds, while upholding food quality and safety, is golden. In addition, the prospect of higher labor costs due to minimum wage increases and expanded health insurance coverage will make it even more imperative for employees to get more work done in the kitchen in less time.
That explains why more operators are adopting packaging innovations that streamline tasks, help them accomplish more in less time, and in some cases, provide functional benefits, such as improved food quality, food safety and efficiency in the kitchen. For instance, modern foodservice kitchens may be able to leverage convenient technologies such as:
- A ham package that opens easily with a pull-tab rather than a knife cut
- An ovenable bag with a ready-to-cook turkey that goes right from the back door into the oven without any kitchen prep
- A chef-quality meal of chicken, wild rice and asparagus in a vacuum-sealed film tray that travels from freezer to microwave to customer in minutes
- A flexible pouch with the exact portion of avocado pulp or barbecue sauce needed for a recipe — eliminating the need to open a can or prep fresh product
Making kitchen tasks go faster with packaging innovations “really amounts to a big dollar sign for operators,” says Susan Edwards, Manager, North America Food Service Business Development, for Sealed Air Corp.’s Food Care Division, of which Cryovac® brand food packaging is a part. “Along with the money you save by reducing labor hours, having the right packaging may also bring you benefits that are hard to quantify but valuable nonetheless, such as higher revenues and profits, greater customer satisfaction through more consistent products and improved safety.”
For example, when you consider the labor hours that can be lost when employees cut themselves with knives or sharp metal can edges, the value of packages that open easily without sharp implements becomes clear.
Enter the Cryovac® QuickRip® bag, which makes opening boneless fresh red meat packages quicker, easier and safer. It opens just by pulling a tab — there is no need for a knife, scissors or brute strength. It also saves expensive meats from scarring because the package is not cut into. Easy-open packages are “fast, simple, consistent and efficient, any way you look at them,” says Edwards.
Another innovation, the Cryovac® Oven Ease® ovenable bag, holds a pre-seasoned or pre-marinated product, such as a rib roast, whole turkey or ham, and allows it to be cooked inside the same flexible bag it is packaged in — reducing prep time, clean-up time and in some cases, cooking time. It is safer, too, because the food is not exposed to contamination in the kitchen. Oven Ease® bags can make it easier for operators to serve food quickly, expand the menu and run profitable, limited-time promotions. Edwards notes that a product in the Oven Ease® bag may cook as much as 20 percent faster than it would in a foil-wrapped pan because the ovenable film holds heat and moisture better.
Chef-inspired meals are quicker and easier to serve and safer, too, with Cryovac® Simple Steps® microwaveable vacuum skin packaging. It consists of a high-quality meal packaged on a vacuum-skinned plate or tray, attractively presented and ready to heat. The vacuum skin covering provides steam-assisted cooking and ventilation in the package. The package is not opened beforehand, virtually eliminating cross-contamination risks from handling and utensil use and doing away with prep time. Simple Steps® offers a fast, practical way to serve heat-and-serve meals with an upscale look in environments where quick, consistent turnaround is a necessity, such as colleges and universities, healthcare operations, hotels and restaurants.
“Most foods, even frozen or raw, can be cooked in the Simple Steps® package in three to six minutes in the microwave,” says Edwards. “This is an opportunity to take a device that is already a time saver, the microwave, and use the package technology to make a high-quality meal in less time.”
Also valuable time- and cost-savers are Cryovac® flexible pouches, which are much easier to ship, store, open and use than bulky #10 cans, pails and buckets. A pouch of soup or sauce, for example, can be portioned in the exact amount the operator requires and heated right in the package, saving the labor that would be spent transferring it from a can to a secondary container for heating. Furthermore, aseptically processed pouches of foods such as fruit or vegetable purees, avocados and tomato paste can be kept handy right at the cooking station in these thin, compact pouches.
Well-conceived packaging platforms like those are vital tools for managing the stringent demands of today’s time-critical marketplace. Labor-saving and functional packaging innovations promise food that is not only quicker, but also potentially better, safer and more profitable, too.