Mexican food accounts for more than 60% of the ethnic food market and is highly competitive. One of the most popular Mexican items is queso fresco, a crumbly white cheese that presents a unique challenge for brands that want to differentiate themselves. That’s because it’s typically sold in round, puck-shaped horizontal thermoformed vacuum skin packs, made of a polyolefin-based film, with brand information printed only on the top and bottom. They tend to be stacked on top of each other in any retail dairy case, limiting shoppers to a side view and resulting in a “sea of white,” outwardly unbranded packages.
Olé Mexican Foods recently went about reclaiming the lost branding space that rings the circumference of the queso fresco pucks. The company had previously tried to use various packaging options, including inserts and post-package adhesive labels, but were not satisfied with the results. It was determined that printing on the profile of the thermoformed package was the answer.
But when Olé’s legacy supplier wasn’t able to accommodate, Sealed Air came forward as up to the challenge. Printing on plastic destined for thermoforming must occur prior to forming, so the graphic design must account for the distortion caused by molding process. The path to getting it right can be tedious, time-consuming, and expensive, but a tight collaboration between Sealed Air and the Moreno family, the owners of Olé Foods, allowed project trials to flow smoothly, and resulted in proper sizing and placement of the artwork on the profile of the queso fresco packaging. The resulting solution balanced cost and performance in adding clear, readable graphics on a thermoformed profile.
How’d they do it? Sealed Air’s SEE™ Graphic Services combined its knowledge of distortion printing with expertise on horizontal form/fill/seal equipment to design graphics that would be clear and legible after the thermoforming process. This also uses a proprietary ink system for surface printed inks that have excellent abuse resistance.
Olé provided Sealed Air with the details of its equipment, including the tooling drawing. This allowed Sealed Air to create graphics in registered print that would run repeatable package designs on that equipment. The customer equipment needed to be able to register the thermoformed bottom web, which it was able to do.
Printing is done flexographically, and can use as many as to 10 colors. Sealed Air’s CRYOVAC® works with all major equipment manufactures and can implement this technology on the vast majority of hf/f/s equipment that can register both top and bottom webs.
When the project was finished, Olé Foods’ queso fresco became the first Hispanic cheese product in the dairy case to let consumers see the brand without having to pick it up. On top of a visually pleasing package with graphics that are easy to read at a distance, Olé’s product has immediate brand recognition that no other cheese brand has.
Olé has applied the new packaging to two different brands and a total of eight SKUs, resulting in a 16% (1.5 MM) increase in sales over an 8-month period.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the visibility and recognition the new packaging has given us in the marketplace,” says Blake Johnson, Vice President at Olé Foods. "Our product now has the differentiation that none of our competitors has. If you take a photo of the Hispanic cheese section, you’ll see a sea of white, with our product being the only one that stands out.”