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Tube packs tap timely trend

Flexible tube packs match consumers’ requirements for on-the-go-anywhere eating for a new wave of portable foods.
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FILED IN:  Package Component  > Films
     

Until recently it’s been possible to count on one hand the number of food products in flexible tube packages that allow portable eating without utensils.

And with squeezability tubes provide interactive fun for this predominantly kids-focused package format. However there’s a tubular trend afoot in which more foods are following a tubed path to convenience that accelerates a 1990s trend for on-the-go time-constrained households.

Tube-packed foods are nothing new. For 40 years The Jel Sert Co. West Chicago IL has built a business on tubed products for kids with its Pop Ice Fla-Vor-Ice and other treats. Sensing an opportunity to inject new life into its four-side-seal tubed offerings Jel Sert has redirected part of its new product efforts from kids’ fare to products for parents too (see sidebar p. 68).

A tubular quantum leap was made two-and-a-half years ago when General Mills Minneapolis MN went national with Yoplait Go-Gurt.

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Aimed squarely at kids Go-Gurt can be considered the vanguard of this proliferation of pumpable foods in squeezable tube packs.

These now include squeezable forms of apple sauce pudding and gelatin products that have previously been available only in plastic cups. Examples include Fruit Rocketz apple sauce from Tree Top Selah WA; Fruit Blasters from Mott’s Stamford CT (see chart on p. 67); Hershey brand puddings and Jolly Rancher gel snacks from ConAgra Foods Irvine CA; and X-treme Jell-O Gel Snacks from Kraft General Foods Glenview IL.

What has opened the floodgates for foods in tube packs?

Required ‘comfort’ eating?

“There are trends toward tube snacks for portability and convenience for time-crowded on-the-run lifestyles” explains ConAgra Foods brand manager Charlene Lee. “That’s a requirement not simply a desire for comfort foods for consumers.”

Through joint efforts ConAgra Foods is tapping into tube packs’ portability through a dual effort in refrigerated puddings and gelatin snacks. ConAgra introduced in June 2002 Hershey’s Portable Pudding and Jolly Rancher Portable Gel Snacks in tubes. Both 2.25-oz tubed snacks are sold in eight-count cartons for $2.89 and $2.69 respectively. The pudding packs are three-side sealed; the gel snacks in clear film printed in four colors to accentuate the products’ color are four-side sealed.

The products target two overlapping market segments: The gels are geared for kids and the pudding is broader in its reach.

For the latter explains Lee “We’ve incorporated the famous Hershey’s chocolate taste into a rich creamy pudding and then packaged it in fun easy-to-eat-from tubes for a totally new sweet snack and dessert alternative. Hershey’s Portable Pudding puts an innovative spin on a fantastic well-known brand.” The packs appear to be constructed of a metallized or foil lamination with an opaque white outer film printed in at least six colors. The tubes have a tear notch on the end for easy opening.

Although ConAgra doesn’t restrict the products to particular users—“chocolate is liked by all!” Lee emphasizes—the marketing focuses on moms. Lee points out that studies show that 70% of parents eat the same foods they buy for their kids.

ConAgra declines to provide machinery and material details though Packaging World has learned that the tubes are formed on Hassia USA (Morganville NJ) machinery installed at a Swiss Miss plant in Menomonee Falls WI.

On the materials side a recent report from security analysts that follow Bemis Co. states that ConAgra’s two tube packed introductions represent “new incremental volumes in high-barrier films” for the company presumably from its converter Curwood (Oshkosh WI).

Introduced in June Jolly Rancher Gel Snacks are a major repackaging for the products which debuted in 3.5-oz plastic cups in October 2000. “Those were well-received by consumers” Lee says. “The tube packs allow one-handed convenience and can be taken to new and different places including eaten by kids in the car.”

This spring Kraft Foods introduced X-treme Jell-O “gel sticks” in six tube-pack varieties. Kraft says that the “ready-to-eat gel sticks come in an innovative hand-held package making them the perfect snack anywhere that kids go.”

Saucy introductions

Starting just more than a year ago Tree Top has offered tube-pack versions of its flavored apple sauce in select markets (see packworld.com/ go/c043). Machinery and materials are from Winpak Lane (San Bernardino CA) according to Tree Top. In May Mott’s launched its own line of apple sauce in tubed packs Fruit Blasters in five varieties. The carton multipacks which feature Mad Lib game graphics contain eight “Squeeze’n Slurp Apple Sauce Tubes”. Mott’s uses eight-lane form/fill/seal machinery from Hassia USA installed at its Williamson NY plant to package the packs. From Curwood the film structure is oriented polypropylene/ethylene vinyl alcohol/linear low-density polyethylene coextrusion sealant. The products were introduced to mass merchandisers nationwide and East Coast grocery chains in March.

“Kids will enjoy the high-impact flavors bright colors and smooth texture while the tube design and games will allow them to have fun and interact with the product” says Mott’s product manager Kristen Marshall.

Yogurt gelatin pudding apple sauce and most recently even peanut butter...who knows what foods will be the next to go tubular?

For an update on Go-Gurt see: packworld.com/go/w025

See the sidebar to this story: An old hand at tubes

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