Have you every opened a carton of ice cream and what you see is the dreaded layer of freezer burn? That happens due to the product being stored at off temperatures (getting warmer and then cooler) or from the product being shelved too long.
Frozen food packaging has a job to preserve food from the time it is prepared to the time it is eaten — all the way throughout the product’s journey. The packaging helps to maintain original color, flavor and texture and generally more of their nutrients than foods preserved by other methods. Fruits & vegetables, meat and seafood, and frozen desserts & ice cream and baked goods are packaged in bags, boxes, tubs & cups, trays, wrappers and pouches. And each pack type must be able to handle the trip.
Frozen food packaging is expected to reach $53.43 million by 2024 at a CAGR of 5.18% over the forecast period of 2019-2024, cites a report by Mordor Intelligence. As packaging for frozen meat, poultry and seafood have seen the fastest gains among frozen food applications, many large food packaging companies in North America and Asia-Pacific are investing more for creative and decorative packaging.
Frozen Foods Boom
Consumers dictate what they want to consumer packaged goods companies — which has brought about new product ranges, healthier and vegan options, and catering to specific demographics. Shoppers are realizing that frozen foods are many times fresher than fresh produce, extremely convenient and a great way to prevent food waste, which has proved particularly attractive to millennial shoppers, who want convenient foods prepared quickly to meet their lifestyle needs.
Demographic shifts will help drive continued growth in frozen foods, said Darren C. Serrao, co-chief operating officer and executive vice-president of Conagra Brands Inc. during the company’s investor day on April 10, 2019. Millennials, a generation of time-starved foodies, view frozen foods as a convenient shortcut to achieving “culinary aspirations,” he said.
Conagra Brands just rolled out several frozen innovations: Healthy Choice Power Treats, Angie’s Boomchickapop frozen sweet treats, Marie Callender’s pub-style pot pies and Duncan Hines Gooey microwaveable cookies. The company says it’s catering to what young consumers want.
“Millennials rely more on frozen than any other generation after having kids,” Serrao explained. “Every generation increases their use of frozen after having had kids. Millennials are doing so more than any other generation. And we believe it’s the combination of some of these differentiating factors that frozen brings to bear.” He also said that Gen X “represented a drag on frozen.”
Conagra also just released a veggie alternative to its famous Birds Eye frozen food brand. The meals substitute pasta and rice for pasta made from zucchini and lentil, and riced cauliflower. The frozen entrees were created to fit a low-carb lifestyle and increase vegetable servings without sacrificing the flavor of the popular meals.
Nestlé is moving along the same path with plans to exit its company-owned frozen Direct-Store-Delivery (DSD) network for its pizza and ice cream businesses and transition to a warehouse model. The change will leverage the warehouse network that Nestlé already uses for its frozen meals and snacks, which will enable the company to better meet the needs of retail customers and consumers. The phased transition is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2020.
The food industry is facing unprecedented shifts in consumer behavior: how they eat, shop and engage with brands. At the same time, retail customers also are evolving how they do business.
“Ice cream and pizza are growing categories in which we hold strong leadership positions,” said Steve Presley, chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA. “As we continue to focus on driving long-term profitable growth, leveraging a simpler route to market unlocks resources we can use to fuel our efforts in demand generation, such as product innovation and brand building.”
Healthier variants are the key in many manufacturers’ portfolios. The value of low-calorie frozen meal market has increased by 5.6% according to Kantar Worldpanel, with an 11.3% increase in penetration as consumers gain awareness of these products.
CAULIPOWER Chicken Tenders is one example. The latest meal hack from CAULIPOWER will be the only baked, not fried chicken tenders available at retail to date. The crispy coating is packed with cauliflower and other gluten-free goodness with no artificial ingredients. The entire 14-oz. bag has only 480 calories with the 86% less fat and 46% less calories of all 60 products in the natural and multi-outlet channels. They also have zero saturated fat, no added sugar, 30% fewer net carbs, 22% more protein, and 21% more fiber than the category average. The tenders are made from NAKED TRUTH Premium Chicken rated Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 2 that’s all-natural, raised with no antibiotics and cage-free. They come in a resealable pack and will be available at over 4,200 selected national and regional retailers in September, just in time for back-to-school.
Material that Withstands the Chill
Dow Packaging (Midland, Mich.) offers some stand-out features for frozen food packaging. Frozen fruits and vegetables have experienced a dramatic increase in popularity as consumers recognize the flavor, appearance and nutritional advantages over canned or even fresh versions, as frozen vegetables and fruits are stored at their peak ripeness. But frozen food packaging presents a unique set of challenges, which is being addressed through a collaborative approach across the value chain. Dow’s all polyethylene stand-up pouch (PE-SUP) uses Dow resins, adhesives and coatings to accommodate a wide variety of frozen food. These pouches are lightweight — making traveling through the value chain easier, sustainable — keeping food fresher and convenient with its resealability.
Dow’s stand-up all-polyethylene pouch combats frozen food packaging challenges by:
- Durability — Packaging applications made with Dow materials are durable and can handle all types of frozen food, even that with sharp edges.
- Flexibility — Dow materials can help packages stay flexible at low temperatures without cracking.
- Flavor — Frozen food packaging made with Dow products is designed to keep flavor from escaping.
The Role of Packaging in Cold Chain Logistics
CPGs in the frozen food space have waited to get into e-commerce since it grew. Of course, it will start with Amazon and Walmart — like most retail products. An important part of that is the cold chain. Miguel Campos of food packaging supplier Advanta (Staffordshire, U.K.) explains how cold chain technology will secure the future of chilled and frozen foods for the expanding population, with the right packaging material choice.
More than half of the world’s population is expected to rely on food sourced from other countries by the year 2050, according to the World Atlas. Food security is a major issue, with demand stemming from the continually rising population. Efforts to combat this concern include boosting agricultural productivity, encouraging local produce consumption and improving food storage methods.
One of the most efficient solutions is to prioritize cold chain technology as a way of improving food storage methods. Keeping food cold over long periods of time to reduce bacterial growth is a key preservative method for minimizing waste globally.
Cold chain technologies enable sellers to keep food fresh over long transit journeys or store produce over long periods for out-of-season sales. However, getting a chilled product from the point of manufacture to the point of consumption thousands of miles away can be challenging. Any form of divergence away from the acceptable temperature range can deem the food product unsafe, resulting in food waste and lower profit margins for manufacturers. However, it is avoidable.
It’s no surprise that many companies are investing in an efficient and effective cold chain. In fact, it was recently reported that food retailer Aldi is on the lookout for vacant retail spaces to transform into new cold-storage warehouses. This is just one example of the many businesses looking to strengthen their cold chain.
Developing trends are moving the cold chain away from simple continuous temperature monitoring, to more intelligent tracking of all aspects of the cold chain. IoT technologies are being deployed to solve the modern challenges facing the cold chain, using embedded sensors to enable real-time intervention. For example, a hairline fracture in the pipes of a coolant system could be detected well before it turns into a major problem, using sensor technology.
Even with this technology, packaging material can make or break the cold chain, yet packaging is rarely discussed as a crucial cold chain factor. As the food’s first point of contact, proper packaging is essential when attempting to maintain product integrity throughout the cold chain process.
For example, aluminum can endure a wide range of temperatures, from -40 to 400 degrees Celsius. The material is a far better conductor of heat than plastic or glass, which means the food package can be cooled down quicker.
Another all-important factor is secondary and tertiary packaging. This plays an important role in ensuring air flow during transit and must be carefully chosen to avoid hot spots of trapped, warm air. For example, storing the products on pallets will keep air moving around the food products, ensuring all products are cooled effectively.
To aid this, packaging is manufactured in all shapes and sizes. This means the specified geometry can maximize the number of units transported, while maintaining effective air flow in the storage unit.