Around the globe approximately 130 million tonnes of fish and other seafood products are consumed on an annual basis. Where in the 1960s the worldwide consumption per capita was estimated at 9.9 kg, according to recent statistics of the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) it has risen to 19.2 kg in 2012. In modern kitchens, seafood products have become ever more important. The large variety in species and flavours, as well as their nutritional value, make them highly beloved. Furthermore, seafood isrich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements, hence forming an important contribution to a healthy diet. For many consumers who pay attention to a sensible eating pattern, seafood products form an important part of their daily menu, provided that they come from sustainable fisheries.
Added value packaging
Being a valuable yet extremely sensitive and perishable food item, seafood must be treated with extreme care. In addition to a strictly controlled, uninterrupted cold chain, modern packaging solutions contribute to highest product safety and increased shelf life. They protect seafood against the ingress of oxygen, which accelerates degradation, thus avoiding any undesirable smells and taste. Furthermore, they prevent seafood products from drying out. And these solutions must address the latest trends, such as a continuously increasing demand for sustainable packaging that requires less materials and consumes less energy.
High requirements for the packaging industry
The packaging industryhas responded and recently produced some true innovations to meet the wishes of retailers and consumers with regard to freshness, shelf life, convenience and - last but not least - sustainability. Also SEALPAC, supplier of innovative tray-sealing and thermoforming technology, has paid particular attention to the packagingissue around fish and seafood, both from aquaculture as well as caught in the wild, resulting in a number of interesting new solutions.“Next to maximum productsafety, optimal shelf life and the preservation of taste and valuable ingredients, the aspect of sustainability is a central topic, as SEALPAC is engaged in the SAVE FOOD initiative with the primary goal to prevent food losses around the globe,” says Carsten Fouquet, general manager Sealpac USA LLC.
Modern bucket packaging for seafood delicacies
A classic packaging for seafood-based delicacies, such as spreadable salads, is the combination of a transparent bucket with lid, which is regarded a true eye-catcher at retail. It is highly valued by retailers for its excellent stackability, whilst providing convenience to the end user due to the recloseable lid. To further optimize this established seafood pack, SEALPAC has now developed a tray-sealing technology that allows the bucket-like tray to be sealed under modified atmosphere (MAP). As such, shelf life is extended and microbial risks are reduced. Carsten Fouquet: “The new technology can even be applied to trayswithout the typical wide sealing edge, as well as with SEALPAC’s unique InsideCut system thatseals the top film to perfection within the edges of the tray, resulting in an outstanding presentation and film savings”.
Sustainability by saving one step in the process
Another innovation in the area of tray and lid is SEALPAC’s EasyLid® system, which is creating a buzz in the industry. This patented system combines sealing and lidding in one single step: a pre-formed tray with a regular sealing edge, as well as an additional ring, is hermetically sealed to a matching film under MAP. The trick: upon opening the pack a re-closable lid is automatically created. It allows for multiple, consumer-friendly re-closing of the packaged product, such as sensitive seafood delicacies, and storing it in the refrigerator without any unwanted smells.
Fouqued underlines, “In addition to increased convenience for the end user, the EasyLid® system also provides important benefits to food processors and retailers. Processors benefit from savings in materials, time and production space, as the common snap-on lid (including its lidding equipment!) is no longer required.” Simultaneously, the EasyLid® system reduces storage requirements, transport costs and packaging waste. Retailers benefit from optimized shelf life, as well as a reduced risk of lids getting lost on their shelves, which can be an issue with snap-on lids. Moreover, EasyLid® packs are a true innovation at retail with a clear sustainability message. The industry has already recognized the potential of the system, which received various international packaging awards only shortly after its introduction, largely acknowledging its economic and ecological benefits.
Seafood in 3D – the benefits of skin packaging
Whole fish or larger pieces of fish, however, require a package that provides a clear view of the product, as customers want to see what they are buying. Trending topic within the seafood industry is the use of modern skin packaging, which is not only suitable for smoked and fresh fish, but also for packing frozen fish and seafood. Here, the product is sealed directly onto the (formed) tray by means of a highly transparent oxygen permeable skin-film. Due to the deep vacuum, a clearly longer shelf life is achieved. SEALPAC enables skin packaging on its traysealers and thermoformers. In both cases, the film fits the contours of the seafood product like a second skin, resulting in a 3D effect that not only makes it possible to see, but even to feel the product.
The securely positioned product cannot move, hence allowing an attractive vertical retail presentation at eye level. Here, SEALPAC’s InsideCut system plays a vital role, as only this system allows a hermetic seal that does not cover the hanger hole. Furthermore, the InsideCut system gives the pack a high-quality presentation and results in savings on the cost intensive skin film.
Despite the hermetic seal, consumers will be able to easily open the pack without tools like knives or scissors due to SEALPAC´s unique EasyPeelPoint system. With this feature, the peel corner is integrated within the sealing contours of the tray. The corner of the top film is pressed into a round cavity and releases from the sealing edge. With the resulting easy-to-grip peel tab, the top film is removed from the tray with minimum force.
Two-compartment vacuum pack enhances product safety
A truly unique innovation, originally developed for the meat industry, has now also evolved as a solution for seafood products. This patented two-compartment vacuum packaging system under the brand name TenderPac cleanly separates the product from the drip-loss that occurs during transport and storage. A vacuum reservoir, the special ActiveStick, collects this drip-loss and provides dry and appetizing storage of the fresh product. This significantly reduces the oxidative degradation process, which is normally caused by the residual oxygen in the product. Since fish, such as fresh salmon, loses a lot of liquid during storage, especially from a microbial point of view, the TenderPac system is perfectly suited for these applications. SEALPAC offers TenderPac as flexible film application on its thermoformers, and as TraySkin®application on its traysealers.
Perfect interaction at all levels
No matter what development or innovative solution the seafood industry chooses – to convince its customers, excellent product quality is a given fact. Absolutely fresh and high-quality raw materials, preferably from sustainable fisheries, strict observance of hygiene regulations in all process stages, as well as an optimal and consistent storage temperature throughout the entire cold chain are a must. Combined with a perfectly matching packaging process, by using efficient equipment, modern consumables and optimal packaging technology, seafood products will benefit from improved packaging quality that fulfils all modern requirements.