Date of publication: January 2013
The ambient long-life food sector development is challenged with its market positioning and consumer concerns about quality in comparison with the chilled and/or frozen variants. Canned meals are perceived as inferior quality, less fresh and less authentic products, though their lower price-point and efficient production are key advantages. The segment is in need of modernisation, which can be done with the use of new plastic packaging solutions, and their improved process technology to deliver higher quality, long-life food products. Plastic packaging has the potential to re-vitalise mature markets such as soup, canned fruit, vegetables and fish, by introducing convenient, added value containers suited to modern day living.
Growing consumer demand for convenience foods and on-the-go meal solutions is driving the packaging innovation and plastic boasts superior functionality and aesthetics versus traditional packaging, including portability, microwaveability, re-sealability, ease of opening, portioned servings, in-pack serving, light-weight and shatterproof.
With steel prices climbing, major users of cans are committed to finding value-for-money, light-weight and convenient alternatives to traditional packaging media, promising a bright future for plastic retort packaging.
Moreover, new sustainability agendas put traditional materials under review - even though there are established waste streams for glass and cans across Europe, these materials score lower than plastic from the production carbon footprint analysis.
However, there are obstacles to overcome which will limit wholesale substitution and challenge suppliers over the coming years: filling speed, cost and disposal. Furthermore, transitioning to plastic means overcoming the technical challenges that pasteurisation and retort shock dictate - both in regards to the container and the closure/lid. AMI's investigated these challenges and the existing technical solutions.