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Seafood tray redirects microwave power

Trays of Cape Cod Cuisine frozen foods manipulate microwave energy to mimic conventional oven cooking results.
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Foodservice company Raw Seafoods has plunged into retail markets with its Cape Cod Cuisine frozen foods.

“It’s been a totally different ballgame” says director of marketing Kane Kendall.

With the laminated paperboard tray the company has chosen the New Bedford MA fish packer is making an innovative splash in the dual-ovenable market. Eight products in the line use trays laminated with a polyester film of thin patterned aluminum. The patterned aluminum is used to harness and control the microwave energy.

The specialized tray technology is MicroRite from Graphics Packaging Intl.

MicroRite redistributes the microwave energy via selective aluminum patterning channeling it deeper into the frozen food for faster more even heating.

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“There’s thorough cooking throughout the product due to the engineered aluminum patterns” says Kendall. “It even channels the energy into the center of the products.” The laminated trays also perform well in conventional ovens according to Kendall.

Honeycombed aluminum pattern

The 8’’x51¼2’’x15¼8’’ tray is made from 18-pt SBS board laminated with a 48-ga polyester/aluminum film. GPI creates the honeycombed pattern using a proprietary converting process. During microwave heating the aluminum areas reflect the microwave energy into other areas; unshielded areas heat normally. The complex honeycomb pattern of aluminum keeps the edges from crisping while driving more energy into the center of the entrée or other food product.

It’s also efficient: Kendall says most of the products are microwaved in six to eight minutes.

The brand encompasses three product lines: meal-sized portions that serve two single-serve entrees and appetizers. The products are primarily raw frozen foods with the exception of a few items that are partially cooked. All but two items use the MicroRite trays.

“We know this type of microwave technology is huge in Europe but this is the first time it has been used in the States in tray form” Kendall notes.

From scratch concept

Kendall says they started from square one with a product concept “and a clean slate as to what the packaging would be.” In fact initially the product was going to be for conventional oven use only not dual-ovenable according to Kendall. But they discovered that the cost of an aluminum tray was “through the roof” he says. They also considered a crystallized polyethylene terephthalate (CPET) tray. For oven heating the CPET tray needed to be placed on a cookie sheet an added step for consumers that Kendall wanted to avoid.

“After removing the lidding film the MicroRite tray goes right into the oven” he points out.

The patterned MicroRite tray Raw Seafoods selected was actually developed by GPI for frozen lasagne but it was found to work well for other foods too. The project went from concept to having a product on the shelf in five months according to Scott Hutchens Raw Seafoods’ vice president.

“Last December we asked Graphic Packaging to provide us an oven-ready microwavable tray that would outperform any package on the market” says Hutchens. “We’re having great success in the marketplace with MicroRite trays. They ensure that the final cooked food products have the quality that both our company and our customers demand.”

The products retail for $7.99 to $9.99. Launched in Kings Super Markets in New Jersey and New York the products are now available at Hannaford Bros. Supermarkets in New England. Raw Seafoods is in the midst of a major fall push into new customers throughout the Northeast.

According to Kendall the trays are a keeper.

“The MicroRite tray provides a drastically improved microwave and conventional oven cooking experience” he says. “We’re very happy with the avenue we took.”

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