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Article | January 16, 2014
Skin-tight seafood packaging
New tray system technology produces high-efficiency, high-barrier, high-visibility packaging for griller products.
Switzerland-based Micarna SA is part of M-Industrie, which owns 17 companies in Switzerland and three abroad. M-Industrie belongs to the Swiss Migros Group, which describes itself as the world’s largest producer of private label products. Micarna is the meat processing, packaging, and marketing specialist within the group. And in recent years, Micarna has added seafood to its product mix. The company only processes seafood from sustainable sources. Endangered species have been deleted from Micarna’s product range. During 2012 and 2013, Micarna introduced a specialty barbecue grill seafood line for retail and foodservice, including shrimp and salmon products. These products are uniquely packaged with the help of tray manufacturer Bachmann Forming, film manufacturer Sealed Air, and packaging equipment manufacturer Sealpac. The innovative Sealpac TraySkin® packaging system allows the product to be sealed directly in the tray by means of a highly transparent barrier film that clings tightly against the product like a second skin. Micarna set the bar high for packaging appearance and packaging material usage efficiencies. Engineers at Sealpac worked hard to deliver a high-end, visually perfect package that required less film consumption and allowed for lower tray profiles.As part of the packaging operation, the tray is exposed to great pressure and has to cope with heated film that is dropped over the product to fit its contours as well as tray edge heat sealing. The tray must withstand these high-temperature challenges without deforming. So, after various tests, Bachmann Forming determined that the optimum solution was a pre-fabricated thermoformed polypropylene tray with EVOH barrier (PP/EVOH/PE) that can withstand temperatures up to 120 degrees C. The U-shaped sealing edge provides added tray stability. The high-barrier, high-transparency skin film provided by Sealed Air Corp. had to demonstrate good peeling behavior to allow easy opening of the package. Sealed Air technicians determined that the best-performing choice for this application was Sealed Air’s VST-0280 skin film. This film also exhibits excellent machineability. Marc-Andre Bourdilloud, Head of Seafood West at Micarna, says “The TraySkin packaging is not suitable for all of our products. But for particular items, such as pieces of salmon or shrimp on a skewer, it truly provides added value because the product is sealed directly onto the tray, is well-protected by the tray and film, and is perfectly visible and eye-catching for shoppers. In addition, Sealpac offered its unique EasyPeelPoint system. The film is pressed into a round cavity at each corner of the tray lip, facilitating easy grip and easy release of the film from the sealing edge of the tray with minimum force.”
At the Ecublens plant in western Switzerland, Micarna processes and packages fresh fish six days per week. Bourdilloud notes, “To accomplish this, we have two identical Sealpac A6 tray sealers, positioned directly adjacent to each other. Each machine can be programmed to accommodate different pack sizes and quantities. This is quite necessary because we run many different packaging formats every day.”
Summarizing why Micarna adopted the TraySkin packaging system, Bourdilloud explains, “Our requirements for the packaging process are as follows: simple, fast, and efficient—with a technically perfect and visually appealing result. We have to be extremely flexible in production, as our customers often order only the evening before the required delivery date. Usually about 200 different products go through our production area every day. In search of a functional packaging solution for our seafood grill range, we chose the TraySkin solution.”
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