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Cudahy takes bacon out of the fridge

Patrick Cudahy Inc. of Cudahy, WI, is probably the first to package precooked sliced bacon for display outside of the refrigerated deli case. "Shelf-stable packaging opens up more opportunities," says Cudahy marketer Jason Kapella.

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These opportunities are not only in the supermarket-near the bread aisle, at the checkout counter, beside the tomatoes-but outside the supermarket altogether in unconventional outlets like convenience stores and gas stations. Unrefrigerated shelf life is six months. Cudahy vacuum packages its Golden Crisp bacon on a recently installed horizontal form-and-seal system from RapidPak (Appleton, WI). According to Cudahy operations vice president Sue Harrits, similar machines and Cryovac (Duncan, SC) barrier materials are used for raw bacon and, possibly, for the precooked bacon that others market in the refrigerated case. A big contribution to the shelf stability of this product is the way it's cooked and formulated, says Harrits. Specifically, salt content is minimized and water activity is low thanks to especially thorough cooking. In packaging, twelve strips of cooked bacon are placed by hand on a sheet of white parchment paper. The paper is inserted into the shallow cavity of the web formed on the RapidPak machine. After a vacuum is pulled and lidding sealed, workers fold the 10" x 15" package three times and insert it into a 41/2" x 11" folding carton supplied by Standard Folding Cartons (Jackson Heights, NY). Printed offset in five colors, the 14-pt SBS carton has a die-cut window on the back. Twelve flat cartons are packed in a tray for in-store display. Launched nationwide in January and retailing for $2.99 per 12-strip package, each Golden Crisp package contains 2.15 oz of bacon.

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