New flow wrap keeps poultry safe, says Tesco

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sealed air cryovac Food safety Meat Tesco

New flow wrap keeps poultry safe, says Tesco
The first UK retailer to introduce trayless, leak-proof, printed flow-wraps for all of its whole chickens, Tesco counts the avoidance of pathogens such as campylobacter among the key benefits of the new pack format.

The project began as a packaging reduction exercise a couple of years ago, says film provider Sealed Air Cryovac. By shedding the tray, in particular, Tesco has achieved a 70% weight reduction on its annual volume of 35M whole birds.

But Tesco identifies one of the more interesting benefits as food safety. "Standard packaging is not leak-proof, unlike [this] flow-wrap, which provides full packaging integrity and is fully compliant with Food Standards Agency recommendations,"​ said technical manager poultry Max Tooley.

"Customers handling leaking packs are at risk of direct contact with campylobacter-contaminated packs, and subsequent cross-contamination issues," ​he added. "This harmful bacteria is the leading cause of food poisoning in the UK."

The materials reduction is not just about packaging that the consumer sees. The 14 lines at seven production plants now use Sealed Air's barrier display film (BDF) on Ulma flow-wrappers to produce a gas-flushed, hermetically sealed pack. Tooley said: "This dispenses with having to 'mother-bag' standard packed chickens in controlled atmosphere outers."

These 'mother bags' are typically used to accumulate stock ahead of weekends and promotions. UK sales director of Sealed Air Cryovac Neil Dunn explained: "Traditionally, this system was necessary to cope with the peaks and troughs in demand, so our solution has taken out an additional stage in the process." ​Tesco calls this stage a "costly and inefficient practice"​.

Without the need for these additional measures, shelf-life on the new pack has increased from nine to 11 days. The retailer says this is especially important with poultry. "Poultry is the most 'perishable' of fresh meat, and total life to retail 'use by' code starts at the day of the kill, as opposed to much red meat, where life is set from the day of packing,"​ said Tooley. Tesco reports a 40% reduction in complaints since the introduction of the new pack.

The change, implemented across the seven plants over the 10 months to September 2011, has also resulted in significant space efficiencies. "Tesco has increased case fill by 20% on whole chickens," ​said Tooley. "In-store, shelf-fill has increased by 16%, resulting in improved availability and less time spent replenishing."

The project's swift roll out was fuelled by Tesco's eagerness to steal a march on its rivals. Dunn at Sealed Air Cryovac confirms that, while other retailers are wrapping poultry in its high-barrier BDF film, this is still in combination with trays and without a full print option.

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood

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