With restaurants continuing to get more of their business through delivery orders, maintaining the quality of the food is becoming increasingly paramount.
In order to ensure the quality of the food is as good at the office or at home as it would be in a restaurant, package developers are getting creative. A trio of representatives from packaging companies were on hand to discuss that innovation during a panel at Food On Demand’s Off-Premises Packaging Summit on Tuesday.
Speakers for the panel, held in Dallas, included Anchor Packaging Director of Marketing Development and Sustainability Kurt Richars, Genpak VP of Market Innovation Strategy Mary Sclafani and Sabert Corp. Director of Product Management Alexus Medina.
At Anchor Packaging, Richars said in most cases the company works directly with partners on specific challenges. To meet those challenges, Richars said Anchor looks for solutions in two categories.
“The first is taste and presentation, finding out how you can do it better,” Richars said. “Being able to have packages be able to properly vent when stacked in a bag. These are the little things you work on.”
The other category revolves around ease of operations, which Richars said was less visible, but just as critical.
“How does it fit in the back of the house and how does it make it easier for the operator to use?” Richars said. “It’s going to vary from operation to operation, but you’re going to spend a lot of energy working on things like a lid. It seems like such a small thing, but you’re solving how it maintains closure and how you can make it faster.”
Being able to focus on such solutions and make other innovations has been easier to do recently, as the industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. In her comments, Sclafani said Genpak said innovation slowed as companies went into crisis management.
“A lot of us sitting at this table had to go through some really hard decisions and rationalization,” Sclafani said. “We just had to make a lot of packaging as fast as we could. Now we’re pulling back, getting more innovative, bringing things to the table and can launch new items.”
One new item in Genpak’s case are its new containers with separate segments. Sclafani said it was based on concerns from restaurateurs and consumers about food migration during delivery.
“So we have what we call our close-off containers, where we have the segregation of the food, and with the closure, you can travel with it, shake it, tip it over, and the food will not migrate to other spaces,” Sclafani said. “We had a lot of requests for it. It still has the visibility, so you don’t have to reopen to check because order accuracy is huge.”
A new item from Sabert was also introduced at the panel, as Medina shared information about the Pop-Top Bowl. The product, which can hold both hot and cold food, has a lid that can open at the halfway point.
“We did a lot of research with customers, operators and users,” Medina said. “A lot of the feedback was that hot meals on the go were really important, but it was really cumbersome to have a bowl and have to hold onto the lid on the side.”
The solution was a lid with a hinge in the center, allowing it to partially open. Medina said the idea was inspired by popcorn machines with hinged lids, which was incorporated into the design.