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Entrée salads with a paperboard twist

Fresh-cut produce in extended-shelf-life packaging remains one of the hottest areas of food packaging today. The latest entry is an entrée: Ready-To-Go Entrée Salads from Fresh Express of Salinas, CA.

Similar to Tanimura & Antle's SaladBowl under the SaladTime(TM) brand (see Packaging World July '96 p. 56) this one has two intriguing twists. First it represents a strategic alliance with Sara Lee Corp.'s Cincinnati-based Hillshire Farms; 2-oz pouches of that firm's cubed chicken or ham come with the salad. As well dressing fork napkin and garlic toast or breadstick are packed into the two-compartment tray. Hillshire Farms also gets prominent billing on the package graphics of this co-branded item. Also unusual is the lidding. Like other fresh-cut items the salad in this one needs to respire and it does so courtesy of a semi-permeable film supplied as lidding over the clear rigid rectangular tray. What sets this lidding apart is that it's laminated to paperboard. "The paperboard doesn't interfere with the OTR [oxygen transmission rate] required for respiration" says Paul Cracknell director of new product development at Fresh Express. "What it brings though is superior graphics. The paper doesn't stretch the way a printed film does so the graphics with UV coating remain intact." Die-cut into the center of the paperboard is a window that allows the greens to show through. Fresh Express is typically tight-lipped about suppliers and materials. About all Cracknell will say is that gas flushing is involved and that refrigerated shelf life is 14 days. Each single-serve salad is approximately 8 oz. Suggested retail price is $3.99. The salads were rolled out nationwide in mid-September. "This brings salad to the center of the plate making it a viable meal opportunity" says Cracknell. "That's the real impetus behind the launch."

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