It contains four individual compartments, one each for fresh sliced apples, a cracker, string cheese, and Italian salami that has no nitrates, nitrites, or artificial ingredients. Marketed nationwide by Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak, the package sells for about $2.98 and has a refrigerated shelf life of 25 days. The flexible film lidding was developed by American Packaging Corp. (APC) and the thermoformed tray by Indepak.
“This was a good way to get into that medium snack/small meal category,” says Drew Dalgetty, Vice President of Production and Operations at Crunch Pak. “And with our core business being apples, naturally we wanted apples to be part of the mix.” He adds that, for now at least, the modified-atmosphere packaging is done by an outside party.
Putting a fresh fruit as well as fresh meat into the same package required what Dalgetty calls “specific characteristics” where the packaging materials are concerned. APC, in partnership with Crunch Pak, developed a special clear lidding structure that maintains freshness and nutritional value for the wide variety of food items in the convenient tray pack. APC arrived at a lidding structure that would heat seal to and then easily peel from the tray. Normally foods like this, especially fresh fruits, require different types of packaging and barrier materials, so the challenge was to develop a single lidding structure that would accommodate those various foods all within one tray design.
The key to this single lidding structure is independently managing the gas levels in each compartment to maximize the shelf life. That is, the piece of film covering the apples is perforated or microperforated in such a way that the fresh apples can receive as much oxygen as they need and give off as much CO2 as they need to continue the natural process of respiration that keeps them fresh and tasty for 25 days. But at the same time the film covering the other components provides the necessary barrier to gas transmission that keeps them equally fresh and tasty.
The sheet from which the trays are thermoformed is a multilayer coextrusion that includes PET as well as EVOH for barrier. Also critical in the composition of the tray is that the layer that meets the lidding material provides both a secure and hermetic seal while still allowing convenient peelability in the hands of the consumer.
APC’s lidding material is a multilayer construction of reverse-printed polyester adhesive laminated to a seven-layer blown coextrusion that includes EVOH at the center for barrier. The printing is done flexographically in up to 10 colors. APC takes care of the printing and laminating, after which, in this particular flexible film structure, comes the patterned perforation.