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Smithfield division launches pork in thermoformed cook-in packs

Backed by an aggressive ad campaign featuring a James Brown Motown classic, Farmland Foods’ Oven Perfect packaging has convenience written all over it.
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Farmland Foods took convenience to a whole new level in the fresh red meat category with the introduction this summer of its Oven Perfect Fresh Pork line.

As so often happens with a new-product introduction, this launch is all about packaging. Farmland’s “revolutionary” cook-in package—which locks in juices, seals in flavor, and self-vents at just the right time to ensure the pork is perfectly browned—is thermoformed from DuPont Teijin Film’s patented Mylar Cook film. Lidding material is also from the Mylar Cook family. These PET materials have been specially developed for the preparation of food in the high-temperature range of up to 425º F. When a certain internal pressure is reached, the side seal where lidding material meets the thermoformed bottom web opens on its own. The food is then browned in the vented pack. The constant heat transfer during the two cooking phases ensures that consistent cooking results are achieved, and it reduces the cooking time by up to 30%.

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When asked precisely what the film spec is for the Farmland packages, DuPont Teijin Films chooses not to be terribly specific. We’re told that the pork tenderloin package shown here has a 6-mil forming web and a 2-mil lidstock, while depth of draw is 55 mm (2.17 in.). When pressed for more detail on film composition, we’re told that Mylar Cook is a cast PET that can be monolayer in some applications and multilayer in others. The lidding material gets an adhesive layer—also made by DuPont—that can be applied as a coating or by way of extrusion. All these variables are managed with one thing in mind: optimal control over the self-venting feature so that no matter how the package is assembled, it becomes the best possible cooking vessel for the specific cut of meat it contains.

“We have conducted extensive consumer research to understand the different types of pork consumers, what motivates them, and what needs are most important,” says Brendan Smith, vice president of marketing for Farmland. “A common theme across several consumer groups was an ongoing pursuit of a fresh, high-quality, homemade meal solution without the time and hassle of starting from scratch. Oven Perfect delivers on this need, offering a wide range of fresh pork products that are simple and convenient to prepare while delivering juicy, tender, and delicious pork every time. Oven Perfect is the ideal solution for a weekday dinner or casual get-together with friends or family. With Oven Perfect, the perfect dinner is in the bag.”

Kansas City-based Farmland, a division of Smithfield Foods, points out that “the exclusive Mylar package is FDA-approved and BPA-free.” As for cleanup, it’s simply a matter of package disposal.

It’s worth noting that cook-in bags have been around for some time, both in foodservice and retail applications. But these have all been pre-made bags, many of them made of nylon. A number of advantages are enjoyed when, in place of a pre-made bag, the packaging is thermoformed in line from Mylar Cook rollstock. Cost savings can be significant because meat packers are in effect making their own “bags” instead of paying someone else to make them. There are also some operational benefits to be had, since putting meat in a premade bag and then sealing it can be pretty labor intensive compared to placing product in a thermoformed cavity. Finally, cook-in bags made of nylon may not stand up to the freezer all that well since nylon has a tendency to absorb moisture. Farmland’s PET packages, on the other hand, are perfectly happy in the freezer. Not only that, they can go from the freezer to the oven with no need for defrosting. A “use-or-freeze-by-date” is imprinted on the lidding material.

Earlier applications

Also worth pointing out is that Farmland’s is not the first application of Mylar Cook thermoformable ovenable material. Some foodservice applications have been commercial since 2010, and in some cases it’s whole poultry weighing up to 14 lb that’s being packaged in these thermoformable and ovenable materials. There are also some retail applications out there in supermarket meat cases.

What makes Farmland’s launch significant is that it marks the first time that a major meat producer has put any real marketing or advertising muscle behind its use of Mylar Cook. The Oven Perfect launch was supported with an integrated ad campaign entitled “Dinner’s in the Bag!” The television commercial (www.bit.ly/pwe00461) features the James Brown Motown classic “Papa’s got a brand new bag,” and it demonstrates how Oven Perfect makes it easy to serve tender, juicy, and delicious fresh pork with no prep and no mess. The campaign also includes radio, print, online advertising, and social media integration.

Farmland now vacuum packages its Oven Perfect line in three plants, using a Multivac thermoform/seal system in each case. Multivac has also been appointed the exclusive, authorized sales distributor for Mylar Cook films in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. According to Joe Kraft, business director at DuPont Teijin Films Convenience Packaging, “We believe Multivac is the best partner to bring Mylar Cook to the market. Multivac’s overall experience in equipment and support for thermoforming packaging solutions will ensure that Mylar Cook will work flawlessly in each packaging application and setting.”

The Oven Perfect line is available in the fresh refrigerated meat case across a variety of cuts and flavors, including Teriyaki Sesame Ginger Tenderloin, Southwest Style Peppercorn Pork Chop, Parmesan Garlic Herb Loin Filet, BBQ Mesquite Baby Back Ribs, and Portobello Pepper Filet of Pork. Refrigerated shelf life is in the range of 90 days.

In the case of the pork tenderloin offering shown on page 46 (which retails for about $8.50), the package includes two large film labels. The simple black and white one on the back is mostly for informational purposes, including nutrition facts, company information, and safe-handling instructions. The front label carries attractive farm scene graphics, a prominent “serving suggestion” photo, and a QR code that consumers with a smart mobile device can scan to be shown a video of “how it works.” Consumers are instructed on both front and back labels to remove both labels prior to cooking.

Oven Perfect follows on the heels of a number of innovative pork offerings that Farmland has launched in 2012. Says Smith: “We are committed to understanding consumers’ needs and we will continue to offer innovative solutions that provide a better overall eating experience.”  

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