Millennials prefer convenience. Be it chopped fruits, vegetables, dairy, or semi-cooked meals; frozen food comes up like a savior in this busy lifestyle. In fact, Nutritionists believe that frozen food can actually be healthier than their off-season counterparts. But, what’s most desirable is an effective frozen food packaging.
What Are the Suitable Frozen Food Packaging Materials?
During freezing, most frozen food products expand up to 9% depending on their moisture content. Therefore, the frozen food packaging material needs to be strong and flexible to accommodate these changes.
Selecting the right packaging material for your frozen food is the key to the effectiveness of the product. The basic points to consider while deciding your frozen food packaging material are-
- It should be able to withstand freezing temperatures between zero degrees to -40 degrees.
- The visual appeal so that customer gets to know your product well before consumption.
- Sustaining sealing, freezing, storage, transportation, and sometimes cooking pressure.
- Pack well the sharp edges (if any) of the frozen food product.
The common choices for frozen food packaging include tin cans, cardboard, laminated paper, and flexible and rigid plastic materials. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and dressed meat also use simple shrink wraps. Following are some of the popular frozen food packaging materials.
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- Polyethylene (PE) film – PE films can withstand temperature as low as -40 degrees without compromising film quality. They also deliver good mechanical strength and puncture resistance during low-temperature transportation, handling, and storage. In addition, PE films are printable and can be layered for extra protection.
- PE derivatives – Different types of plastics like HDPE, LDPE, Polypropylene, etc. are used for making frozen food packaging. This include shrink wraps, rigid and flexible packaging, and also at times single-use disposable packaging. Plastic is desirable because it can withstand a wide range of temperature and provides insulation to the products from the outer environment.
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – PET can withstand abrupt temperature change. Hence, it is generally used for boil-in-the-bag or microwaveable frozen product packagings. Rigid frozen food packaging also uses PET derivatives.
- Cardboard and laminated paper – These are commonly seen in FMCG products like ice-creams, curds, fresh fruit juices etc. However, this packaging has a limited life after taking the product off from the freezer.
- Tin cans – Tin cans are the traditional frozen food packaging material. But, PET and PE are taking over metal cans because they are more economical. However, known brands still use tin cans to retain their brand identity.
Hygiene is very important for frozen food packaging. Although deep-freezing prevents the growth of microbes, contamination is not good in the long run. Manufacturers can set cleaning machinery within packaging and assembly line. Following are some good practices for packaging hygiene.
Moisture is home to many bacteria and fungi. Dry wipedown is a technique of cleaning the packaging and product with a microfiber cloth at room temperature. This not only cleans the item but also makes them dry and ready for packaging.
It is also known as soft-wash. In this technique, low-pressure nozzles spray distilled water or specialized solutions to wash off bacteria from the surface. Large manufacturing plants with in-house packaging and assembly line practice low-pressure cleaning. However, this method is advisable for medium and small scale frozen food manufacturers to enhance the shelf life of their products.
High-pressure cleaning is applicable to the whole food items like packaging farm-fresh produces. Before packaging, fruits and vegetables are washed to prevent contamination through soil-borne bacteria. Generally, the package of high-pressure cleaning equipment for frozen food packaging includes spray nozzles, air-dryer, and hot/cold water setting.
For example, the SVC series of VFFS (vertical forming, filling, and sealing) technology from Bosch Packaging Technology incorporates the hygiene standards for frozen food packaging.
Frozen Food Packaging Labels
The basic mandatory label information according to FDA includes-
- statement of identity i.e the common name of the product
- net weight
- company name and address
- ingredients list including allergens
- nutrition facts
Freezer grade labels and printing are important while designing frozen food packaging labels. The frozen food is stored below zero degrees hence, the adhesives should also be capable of sustaining such low temperatures.
Some of the common labels for frozen food packaging are-
- Blank sheet labels with freezer adhesives coated on paper or vinyl stock.
- Vinyl sheet labels with laser printing can sustain ice cold water and high degree moisture.
- Blank roll labels – These are suitable for automatic label application for packaging frozen food. Thermal transfer, direct thermal, or continuous inkjet/laser are common methods for printing roll labels.
An important factor to note about frozen food packaging labels is that – the package surface is not always plain. They can be rigid trays or irregular surfaces of films, bags, heat-shrink films, or vacuum packs. Hence, before finalizing the type of label, one should also keep in mind the surface of the packaging. This information about types of printing on labels can be useful.
Sealing and Closures
Packaging closures are equally important as the packaging materials. High-quality seals ensure complete protection against the external environment and at the same time influence the visual appeal of the packaging. Although the type of sealing technology to use depends on the type of packaging film, here are some common methods to consider-
- Direct heat sealing – This system uses two jaws with a constant high temperature to seal the openings of a wide range of plastic packaging materials. It is suitable especially for thicker films like polypropylene.
- VFFS – Vertical forming, filling, and sealing technology is a package system of filling and sealing the frozen food packaging within the same production line. This method is generally deployed by medium to large scale manufacturers.
- Impulse heat sealing – This sealing system applies an electric current on impulse. A piece of wire is heated and cooled instantly once the sealing process is complete. Impulse heat sealing is a low-cost alternative to direct heat sealing method.
Apart from these, zip-lock closures and resealable pouches are gaining popularity in the frozen food sector because of the convenience they offer.
A good quality zip-lock ensures sealing like protection for frozen food. Also, many manufacturers add zip-lock along with heat sealing at a distance for consumers’ benefit.
The types of re-sealing mechanisms available for frozen food packaging are-
- Sliding zipper
- Hooded slider
- Press to close (PTC) zipper
What Are the Important Frozen Food Packaging Design Considerations?
Imagine a can of berries falling off your hands while taking them off from the freezer and putting them in your cart. Or, what if your hands become wet, you would not worry the water droplets might spoil the other items. Or, the worst of all, your product reaches the retailer in a distorted shape.
One way to look at is its the supply and store management responsibility. But, on the other hand, because of packaging, your product did not sell somehow. To prevent such situations, you can consider the following design hacks.
- While designing packaging, instead of a plain surface, you can have patterns. Patterns create friction between hands and product, which avoids slipping.
- Another trick is to laminate the interior of the cardboard packaging for moisture resistance. Cardboard can absorb little water droplets formed due to the higher outside temperature.
Packagings go through a lot during transit. Vibrations, jerks, temperature change, handling, mishandling, etc. are to name a few. Following tricks can help sustain your product while transferring from manufacturer to retailers.
- Filling the product just right. Luring customer with oversized packaging is something manufacturers should avoid. The right side of the packaging can help keep the items inside intact.
- Sealing the packaging properly can prevent spillage.
- Avoiding sharp edges in packaging design so that adjacent packets do not get tampered.
- Proper insulation: This can help the product withstand varying temperature and pressure during transit.
Most frozen foods are visible from the transparent refrigerator door. The packaging having color combination and graphics according to the target customer has a better chance of purchase.
For example, Chobani kids yogurt packaging contains vibrant colors and illustrative graphics. It is sufficient to make the kids curious and interested in the product.