A pioneering new foam tray developed by leading food packaging manufacturer LINPAC Packaging for meat and fish products can save retailers thousands of Euros each year thanks to its innovative absorbent core.
The LINstar EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) tray incorporates a built-in patented high capacity absorbent core to draw unsightly meat juices from view and prevent leaks from the pack, removing the need for separate soaker pads which are found in standard EPS packs and often disliked by consumers.
LINPAC Packaging, which has a manufacturing site in Verona and its sister company Infia based in Bertinoro, has developed the unique trays for Italian retailers and food manufacturers looking for lighter, value-added packaging and who want their products to stand out from the competition.
Cristiano Madama, Managing Director at LINPAC Verona, said: “Italy has been strongly affected by economic weakness and aging populations both of which have impacted consumer markets across Europe. The high unemployment rate and wavering consumer confidence has resulted in changes in the shopping behaviour of Italian consumers. In response, product and packaging manufacturers need to keep abreast of altering consumer preferences in order to be able to cater to wide-ranging demand.”
Despite the challenging economy, the value of the Italian protein sector is forecast to grow by almost 10% between 2013 and 2017, from €13,402m to €14,691m. Market volume is expected to see similar growth, of 12%, during the same period; in 2010 market volume in Italy was 1,837m Kg and by 2017 this is predicted to increase to 2,058m Kg (source: Canadean).
Cristiano continued: “Changing consumer preferences are affecting the packaging industry in varied ways, driving the need for greater innovation and design. Our LINstar trays are at the cutting edge of innovation in EPS. The patented absorbent core locks away meat juices, greatly improving the on-shelf appearance of the product and driving up sales. Whilst the premium quality of LINstar commands a higher cost than that of a standard EPS foam tray, we are confident that retailers will reap the benefits of having an efficient packaging solution like LINstar on their shelves and will quickly see a return on their investment.”
The LINstar trays were trialled by a leading supermarket retailer in The Netherlands early last year. The cost savings - €50,000 at one store alone – led to the trays being rolled out for use across all its stores in the country.
LINstar’s absorbent core significantly improves pack and meat presentation helping to drive sales and reduce the number of packs exceeding their sell-by date and wasted.
“Consumers want a ‘clean’ pack and are likely to leave those which have blood and other juices visible on the shelf, even if the meat looks juicy and fresh,” said Cristiano. “Packaging manufacturers have been challenged with cutting waste across the whole supply chain – not just packaging waste but food waste too – and the LINstar tray excels in this area. With its lock-away core, the quality and freshness of meat was deemed higher by consumers when it was packed in a LINstar tray compared with other EPS trays. This means the amount of pack price mark downs and loss of sales due to quality issues is greatly reduced.”
EPS foam trays are often viewed as a low cost option for in-store packing of goods. However, the associated cost of cleaning down shelving systems when packs leak as customers search for their preferred cut of meat is often not taken into account. Similarly, the extra costs related to the rewrapping of leaking packs, for example additional films, labels, printing and man hours are overlooked. The revolutionary absorbent core within LINstar trays means retailers will no longer be faced with these issues.
The LINstar range delivers all the environmental benefits associated with EPS, making it an ideal choice for retailers and packers who are looking to minimise their carbon footprint and drive up sustainability in their business.
Alan Davey, Director of Innovation at LINPAC Packaging, said: “Foamed materials meet all the requirements of modern packaging with regards to the environment and recycling. Given that EPS is 98 per cent air, it is the ultimate low carbon packaging option. It is one of the lightest packaging solutions on the market significantly reducing transportation costs and thus further reducing the carbon footprints of manufacturers and retailers throughout the supply chain.
“EPS is fully recyclable and does not produce greenhouse gases on disposal, plus the energy consumption used in its manufacture can be recovered through incineration.”
LINstar trays are available in a range of vibrant colours to provide product differentiation and sizes to meet all requirements. The trays have been designed to suit both manual and automatic stretch wrapping machines.
LINstar Case Study
In February 2013, the LINPAC Packaging LINcare customer service team undertook a study with a leading Dutch retailer to assess the benefits of switching to premium LINstar EPS foam trays from standard EPS trays in one store.
The store where the study was taking place used 350,000 standard EPS foam trays per year. Switching would require investment by the retailer, an increased cost of 12%. The team was interested to find out the true benefits this additional spend would bring to the retailer. They considered 6 key factors:
• Impact on product wastage
• Mark downs
• Loss of sales due to reduced quality of meat in store
• Re-wrapping costs
• Extra bags at tills to wrap EPS meat packs
• Cost of shelf cleaning from pack leaks
LINstar reduced in-store packed product waste by 1% due to the use of the more robust tray with an absorbent core. The saving was due to improved pack aesthetics, which drove sales and led to a reduction of packs exceeding their sell-by date and thereby reducing in-store waste. This saving was estimated at €14,000 per year.
Cost of shelf cleaning from pack leaks was significantly reduced. Switching to LINstar with its absorbent core to lock away juices and reduce leaks, saved the store two hours per week in cleaning - €3,000 per year in costs.
LINstar has greater shelf appeal due to its absorbent core. The quality and freshness of meat was deemed higher by consumers when it was packed in a LINstar tray compared to standard EPS trays. This delivered a 2% improvement in figures relating to loss of sales due to quality issues. The value of this to the store was estimated at €28,000 per year.
Mark-downs were minimised because meat packed in LINstar trays maintained its fresh appearance for longer due to the absorbent core. This secured a 1% saving, delivering another €3,500 saving per year for the store.
The LINstar solution minimised the need to re-wrap packs due to juices seeping into the wrapping layers around the pack and creating leaks. This achieved a €3,120 saving in additional films, labels, printing and man hours.
Finally, €280 was saved in additional bag consumption. The absorbent core in LINstar trays meant supermarket employees working on the tills did not need to wrap the packs in additional plastic bags – often used to ensure leakage didn’t contaminate consumers’ shopping with meat fluids between store and home.
Despite a 12% premium to invest in LINstar EPS foam trays, the savings identified by the LINcare team totalled in excess of €50,000 for just one store. This far outweighed the initial tray investment and as a result the LINstar tray range is now being rolled out across the chain securing massive savings for the retailer across the business.
This article appeared in Italian Food Processing.
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