- April 30, 2005, Stanley Sacharow, The Packaging Group
Widely hailed as flexible packaging’s "greatest innovation," the retort pouch finally is shedding its exotic image and rapidly becoming a mainline package on the supermarket shelf.
It’s been a tough job—fighting an established metal-can instrastructure, consumer indifference, and slow machinability, but finally mainstream food products are "falling" into retort pouch packages.
Products such as tuna fish, salmon, rice, and prepared entrees are available from multiple food pocessors in flexible retort pouches. And more are yet to come—pasta preparation, soups, stews, and a rash of new chili and gravys are scheduled to hit the market soon.
At Retort Pouch—2005, held in Princeton, NJ, April 12–14, more than 175 retort pros from ten nations discussed all there is to know about the retort pouch. This is the only dedicated retort conference in the world and attracted the largest food user audience of any packaging event.
Not only were the large multi-national food processors present, such as Nestlé, Master Foods, and General Mills, but there were packers, food ingredient suppliers, and retort manufacturers, too.
Mona Doyle, the "consumer opinion pundit," stimulated the audience by discussing how consumers think about and respond to the retort pouch. She stressed the name was consumer-unfriendly and did not address the virtues of the retort pouch, such as texture improvement over the metal can, vitamin nutrition, and flavor enhancement.
Her talk was followed by a veritable "who’s who" of retort pros discussing the entire supply chain of retort pouches and foods. Several highlights of the conference follow.
Steve Hellenschmit of Tetra Recart, Tetra Pak Inc. says current active markets for Tetra Recart include chili (US), vegetables (France and Mexico), and tomato products (Italy). Brand new are Hain-Celestial Groups vegetables (US).
Houston Keith, Keymark Assoc., reports retort volume at 50 billion containers worldwide, with 10 billion in the US and 1 billion in Japan.
Keigi Yoswida, DNP America, says, "Non-foil structure is definitely the future for retail packaging, not only in Japan, but also in the world."
In his debut US presentation, Martin Schreiber, general manager, Huhtamaki Deutschland, discussed the firm’s new development, "Cyclero." This is a flexible, round, retortable form applicable for a variety of foods and beverages, including sausage, sports drinks, and soups. Various closures can be used for the package.
Still developmental, the unit represents Huhtahaki’s attempt to provide a new form for the retort market.
Another highlight was Ashok Vasudovan’s talk entitled "Full Meal Solutions—New Directions in Retort Processing." As CEO of Preferred Brands, his firm introduced a large variety of Indian meals in retort pouches and trays.
His talk was chock full of statistics and future projections. He sees the retort pouch in a wide variety of markets including disaster relief, breakfasts, and on airlines. He noted that Korean Airlines now serves rice in retortable microwavable bowls on its flights.
Dennis Carespodi, RJR Films, presented an excellent comparison of barrier films coated with both SiOx and AlOx. These were compared to the new "Besela" film coated with modified polyacrylic acid.
He discussed both their usefulness and economics and created enhanced attendee interest.
He touched on the ongoing internal RJR study on barrier coatings for microwavable retortable pouches.
As one of the few companies supplying coated retort lidstock, RJR Packaging is to be commended for providing an unbiased study (Clemson Univ. has a study also) on clear retort lidstock.
For a CD of the full conference proceedings and a complete 350-page conference book, contact the Packaging Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost for both formats is $345 plus $20 shipping and handling domestic and $30 international.
Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. Contact him at 732/636-0885; email@example.com.