Your Food Packaging Company

Tips from the Packaging Pros

Mobile Food Truck Food Container Solutions

January 30th, 2012

food truckFood trailers, food trucks, mobile kitchens. Whatever you call them, they seem to be all the rage right now. And why not? Innovative people have found ways to make quality food quickly in a confined space. And they can do so in a restaurant that goes to where the customers are. That’s brilliant! (Not to mention that the payments for the truck can be a fraction of what some people must pay in leasing space for a restaurant in major cities.)

Food trucks, more than a restaurant, must depend on  Read the rest of this entry »

Food Packaging Trends

December 9th, 2011

I was asked the other day, what some of the trends are in the food packaging industry. We get these questions from time to time from our customers. Presumably to make sure their packaging choices are staying up-to-date, or perhaps they want to buck the current trend and go with packaging that may be “retro” or against the grain (I like those). Either way here’s what we told them in no particular order of importance.

1. Product light weighting. I think anybody who drinks bottled water has noticed the bottle has gotten really thin. You can especially tell when you open the bottle and allow it to pressurize. Does it leak or tear or break in any way. Not at all. Did I still get my 12 ounces of cold refreshing aqua? Yes. This might seem minor to the average Joe out there (and that’s what the bottlers want to happen), but it saves millions and millions of pounds of raw materials annually. Subsequently, cost is being taken out of the supply chain. The manufacturer of the bottles are paying less due to the decreased raw material usage and they in turn past savings on down the line. Now, does all of that savings end up with the consumer? Good question. Has your bottled water price gone up, down or stayed the same?

Now we don’t produce water bottles but we do produce many other food packaging items and have been asked by some of our customers to lower part weights. This is obviously to lower the overall part price. In some instances that’s not too hard to do, but I want to caution you on this practice. For example let’s look at our foam hinged containers. We have been asked and in fact have taken weight out of some select items. In each case we’ll create a new part number with the new weight and keep the current number and part weight for those customers who do not want to reduce the weight. In many cases, customers will ask for reduced weights to meet competitive pricing situations where a competitor has offered a lower weight item. All this is fine and dandy. But sometimes I think it is easy to be seduced by the lower price of the light weight parts and start to use them for other, existing business where a lighter part might not work as well. A full meal of say lasagna may really tax I light weight version of a foam hinged container whereas the standard weight had been working well all along. The moral of the story here is you do get what you pay for. It’s best to test first before committing full speed ahead on a light weight project. As always, all you really need to do is pick up the phone and call us, or shoot us a quick email with your question. One of our food packaging professionals will contact you within 24 hours.

2. Smaller overall package profile. I think in many ways this relates right back to light weighting products. A smaller food package profile could translate into a lower price point. There certainly are advantages to a smaller profile. If your particular use for food packaging is going to end up on a supermarket shelf, a smaller profile will enable you to put more packages on that shelf. A smaller profile might also enable you to put an additional sku on that shelf with your brand name. For example, let’s say you sell cookies that come in a clear hinged container big enough for a dozen cookies. That supermarket is perfectly happy with placement with the rest of the cookies and bakery items of similar size and portion. But, if you could reduce the footprint of that hinged container to something smaller (I’d recommend our small hinged delis) and reduce the number of cookies where your product could now also be marketed in the 100 calorie isle, you’ve just doubled your exposure. That might not be the best example, but you get the idea. Once again, we can help with any food packaging scenario. In fact some of those deli containers I mentioned earlier are a direct result of such a situation.

3. Optimized product visualization. What this means is that food manufacturers want to give consumers the best opportunity to see their product within its package. In many instances, this means taking what we call “side flutes” out of the design. If you look at one of our foodservice lids you’ll notice the flutes going vertically on the lid. These are designed in to give the lid strength. Many times restaurants will stack meals to go one on top of the other when packing them into their take-out bags. The lids need to be strong enough to hold that meal being placed on top. By adding this geometry to the sides, we can accomplish this strength without the need to add more material to the part (lower part weight). The trend now though is to remove side flutes in favor of increased visibility. Not so much on lids like this, but rather complete packaging you might find at the supermarket. Fortunately, your friends at Genpak have a solution. Our line of Supermarket Containers fit this description to a t. Notice the elimination of any such fluting that would detract from product visualization. Same goes for the lids we offer for this line. In fact, you have probably seen and used one of our containers as we have many food processors that utilize these great packages for their product. They are produced from #1 recyclable PET and contain up to 40% post consumer recycled content. So they fit the optimized visualization profile as well as have a nice environmental story to tell.

Alright, I know that food packaging trend report turn a little into a Genpak sales pitch, but hey, it’s my blog. And hopefully you did get some good knowledge from reading it.

Until next time…

Foodservice Packaging Material Choices

February 3rd, 2011

Recently we’ve had some new and existing customers make a switch from one type of food packaging substrate (the material used to make a product) to another. Reasons for the switch are many and range from economic in nature to new applications such as microwave use, to environmental concerns. Whatever the reason, I strongly recommend thoroughly researching the substrate you would like to switch to before hand, as not all materials act and react the same way to external factors common to food service such as heat. Even if the geometry of the item in question is identical, say a 12 ounce bowl, the outcome during the application can be drastically different. 

Using this 12 ounce bowl as an example, let’s assume a food service operator wants to switch from a foam laminated version to a clear PET version. Let’s further assume that hot soup is being served. The operator may have wanted to make this switch to be perceived as being “green” by using a material that is more easily recycled. Clear PET, sometimes referred to as APET, is generally #1 curb side recyclable and may even contain some post consumer recycled content. Two very highly coveted features for a good “green” story. Back to this example, there are a couple possible flaws with this particular switch away from a laminated foam part. First, an APET product would generally be more expensive than a foamed polystyrene item. Even if they have the exact same dimensions, the APET part would most likely weigh significantly more causing the price differential. An average 12 ounce laminated foam bowl might weigh in at 4 grams where a like APET bowl would be upwards of 10 grams. Even if the raw material cost was a bit less for APET at the time, its unlikely the delta would be enough to be on par cost wise with a foamed part.

Assuming our food service operator already knew the item would cost more and was prepared to absorb that extra cost, let’s move on to the next reason this might not be the best choice. APET is not a very good insulator. In other words, whatever the temperature of the soup is will be very close to the temperature of the outside of that bowl. APET, unlike foam will transfer heat fairly quickly. Given that the average temperature of soup at serving is around 145° F, that 12 ounce bowl will be far too hot to touch without burning your hands.

As you can see, a PET soup bowl might not be the best choice. Now for something like cold side salads sure, PET would be an excellent choice. In this instance however, if having an item that is perceived to be more environmentally friendly was the driving force behind a switch, I would have recommended our Harvest Fiber 12 ounce bowl. It has very good insulation properties, can handle hot foods, is 100% BPI certified compostable and is made from all natural, renewable resources.

Using that same example, let us assume our food service operator was considering polypropylene instead of APET. After all, polypro is a microwave safe material. He’ll still have the problem of a hot-to-the-touch bowl. Polypropylene is not a very good insulator either. Whatever that temperature the soup is will be very close to what the outside of the bowl will be. Another drawback of materials that are poor insulators is that hot food will cool quickly. So if the operator lets the soup cool enough to pick up the bowl without burning fingers, a consumer could be left with a cold bowl of soup in a fairly short period of time.

There are an infinite number of examples like this that span across all substrates and across all markets including food service, processors and retail. Polypro to PET, polystyrene to polypro, PET to a biobased …the list goes on and on. The absolute best way to make sure the switch you’d like to make will work for all aspects of your applications is to first check with your food service packaging professional. Whether that be your manufacturers rep, distributor rep or my personal favorite, the manufacturer themselves (me). A little research ahead of time can avoid an unhappy customer and bad experience in the end.

Packaging first…okay, maybe second

May 26th, 2010

I can’t tell you how many times I get calls from food service operators, confectioners and food processors looking for custom food packaging to fit their new creation or menu option. Now that by itself sounds great, and it is. The problem arises when the packaging to transport these culinary works of art are at the bottom of their to do list when it should really be the second item on the list.

The reason for this is the cost to make custom shapes and sizes can be a significant dollar amount. Without getting too technical into reasons, I can tell you it can get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A capital outlay of this magnitude is often something people just weren’t thinking about. Especially when they were probably thinking the packaging would be around 2%, maybe 3% of their overall cost. Now a whole new set of costs need to be justified for the operators. Often times on a brand new menu or food item, the “for sure” sales volume is not there to support such an expense. Sure we do get those calls from the larger, national food processors or food service operators who can handle this sort of thing with the power of their particular brand, but for the small and mid-sized companies, an extra $100,000 would kill the whole deal. They’d now be faced with going out and finding a smaller, custom forming company who might be able to make what they need without the large tooling costs, but their final part price will be 30% or more than what they were hoping which is no bargain either.

There is hope! Just move the packaging part of your new food product equation up to the number two spot.  A early on call to your friendly food packaging specialist (me) could save thousands later down the road. We can work with you to design a packaging solution utilizing our massive inventory of existing footprints. 90% of the time we already have a design that will work perfectly. But for that other 10%, sometimes just a minor tweak to the food item or perhaps a simple count change (6 muffins instead of 9) is all it takes to design that perfect package. Perfect both economically and functionally. However if that packaging call is the last on the list and all other aspects are set in stone, it can sometimes be an up hill climb to find an economical solution. 

So for all you food processors and food service operators out there who like to create new tasty items for us to eat, do me and you both a favor and bump your food packaging decision a few notches up the to do list.  I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Tips from Dan

October 9th, 2009
Dan Pate

Dan Pate

In my travels I find many times food service operators are looking for something that makes them stand out from the crowd. The one area which I have heard many success stories from, is customers that add their company logo to the single use food service items they already purchase from Genpak. We can custom emboss or print on many of our items including our foam hinged container, cups and dinnerware lids. The benefits of doing this are:

  • Advertising. Since customers are already paying for the plain food containers, why not put your brand name on it and get the added benefit of brand recognition?
  • Cost up charge is nominal. As little as $.004 per some hinged food containers to emboss.
  • Genpak foam hinged containers and printed cup minimums are the lowest in the business with the fastest turn around time.
  • Genpak has an in-house Art Department that can help design your logo.
  • Food service container appearance and display plays a significant role in increasing sales and more importantly, return sales.
  • At Genpak, we have the largest array of foam hinged food containers for take out or dine in, to fit your menu offering. I would suggest a carry-out menu program.
  • We also offer a very wide selection of cups that may be printed with your company logo. My personal favorite is a Salad Shaker program for QSR take out. The recipe is a CH24 clear cup, dome lid (no hole), your printed logo, salad and dressing. Your customers will eat it up!

Tips from Allan

August 6th, 2009
Allan Levit

Allan Levit

1.  Genpak AD Deli containers can be used for almost any application. I once had the maintenance department of a nursing home use our deli containers to store screws, nails and drill bits. We’ve also had businesses use them for plastic worms used for fishing lures.

2.  I have a Cuban bakery using our AD04 & AD06 deli containers for single serve size flan (creme caramel) desserts.

3.  Another use for our 21100 hot dog container is that it can be used with ice cream for banana splits.

Tips from Cheryl

July 22nd, 2009
Cheryl Firmin

Cheryl Firmin

1.  There are many opportunities right within our markets to help you be successful. You can always expand upon popular symbols and logos conducive to your geographic area. The “Fleur Di Lis” embossed 9×9 sesame in the New Orleans market supports many of the aspects that make up this great city.

2.  Out of all the food packaging companies that exist, Genpak has been known to be the most creative with new food service packaging ideas. Check out our new S4 Dinnerware and Smart Set Pro microwave safe packaging line ups for less expensive ways to upgrade your food packaging needs.

3.  Gumbo is a Louisiana favorite. Our 24 ounce and 32 ounce white foam Utility Bowls along with the corresponding lid is a favorite with many local restaurants for a perfect Gumbo to go packaging solution.

Tips from Frank

July 17th, 2009

1. When discussing your food service packaging needs, make sure the container fits the application. For instance, our 9″ x 9″ foam hinged container is usually far too large for simple left overs. Many times one of our smaller Utility Containers, like our popular 20500 will do the trick and not be as costly. Utilizing smaller containers for left overs will also reduce the valuable space taken up in your storage area.

2. If you are looking for a good “value add” item that is both functional and will help build your brand and customer loyalty, what better way than to use one of our stock decorated items. Muchas Gracias, Catch of the Day and Pride In America are just three of our eight stock designs that are available at no additional up charge.

3. Do your homework on “green.” Foam is not the enemy, just wildly misunderstood. Foam food containers reduce food spoilage, use virtually no water to manufacture are extremely light weight and have been proven to reduce food born illness. Visit our Green Room for updated information to educate yourself about the truths and myths about this topic.