Diving into ovenable board for premium ready meals

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

SmartFare ovenable packaging can handle temperatures of up to 220°C
SmartFare ovenable packaging can handle temperatures of up to 220°C

Related tags: Chilled ready meals, Polyethylene terephthalate

The imminent start to UK production of MeadWestvaco’s (MWV’s) SmartFare ovenable and printable board packaging highlights the barriers to launching a new format in a high-volume category, even for a major international supplier.

SmartFare is a polyester-coated, heat-sealable board tray where direct printing can be customised. MWV’s principal target is the dual-ovenable, chilled ready meals market, currently dominated by the black crystalline polyethylene terephthalate (CPET) tray.

‘Overwhelming’

Chief marketing and innovation officer for food and beverage Diane Teer said: “The response from retailers has been overwhelming.”​ But while the first prototypes came to the UK in 2012, the pack is only due to go into commercial production at MWV’s Bristol plant this autumn.

The fact that the company commissioned quantitative trials of its own in the meantime with over 1,200 UK consumers suggests that retailers were not completely sold on the idea first time round.

Teer stated: “It’s dual ovenable, up to 220°C, but we also carried out additional testing work. Some retailers asked about the ability to crisp or brown the top of a product in the factory. We demonstrated that you could do that and still get a good sealing performance.”

As Food Manufacture reported in October 2012, MWV’s objective at that time was to conduct instore trials with SmartFare. “What we got were opportunities to launch rather than trial it,”​ director of marketing for the product Chris Brady claimed. “But we needed to build a facility first, and get approval for that capital expenditure.”

Emotional response

While ensuring that all practical considerations are covered, MWV is focusing its attentions on the consumer’s “emotional”​ response. Teer explained why the supplier prefers to call it a ‘dish’ rather than a ‘tray’: “Our research shows consumers think of it more like crockery. It’s sturdier and cooler to the touch than plastics.”

The format could grow the category as a whole, she said. “The obvious application is in the premium part of a retailer’s portfolio.”

Related topics: Packaging materials

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