Fishing for innovative packaging solutions

Related tags Salmon European union Tesco

European customers are demanding greater assurances of quality and
hygiene in their food products. A recent conference on the
packaging of fish examined at what the industry was doing to meet
these concerns.

Speaking at the conference at Cryovac's Packforum centre in Paris, Jeremy Hooper from UK supermarket Tesco said that the packaging industry needed to be more responsive. "There is only one way to get it right in the future, and that is to listen to the customer, listen to the customer and listen to the customer again,"​ he said.

According to Tesco, the leading UK retailer with 22.1 per cent of the chilled fish volume - 60 per cent of which is pre-packed - future trends include the need for more information about sourcing, still more convenience for microwave, oven and freezer, as well as a wide choice of pack sizes - single servings, large packs or multipacks.

Packaging firm Cryovac unveiled a number of new sealed pack systems. For example, the Cryovac BDF and Cryovac shrinkable lid concepts are based on a high barrier printable shrink film for overwrapping or lidding trays of fresh fish in attractive packages. The film features gas and aroma barrier properties.

De Graaf Food Services in Belgium presented the company's main packaging concepts for ready-meals. The first concept is the Darfresh FTF Flex-Tray-Flex packaging based on top and bottom flexible webs around a rigid tray. The company claims that this process is an ideal solution for the 'sous-vide' cooking of food preparations, because it preserves the food's taste, juices, vitamins and nutritional value.

The food products are vacuum packed before heat treatment, and then cooled. The process is adapted to pasteurisation, provides long shelf-life and allows a major reduction in shrinking and weight loss.

The second concept presented by De Graaf was the Cryovac Steam Cooking concept, the latest pack for steam-cooking fresh ready meals in the microwave. The process involves a rigid tray, a water retention pad, a top lidding film and a vent hole or pressure valve. "Fish is particularly well adapted to this concept, adding to the healthy, low-fat and high quality image of the meal,"​ said Thomas Hassing from De Graaf.

In addition, the conference touched on modern packaging facilities with full automation, which generate efficiency, reduce labour costs and offer systematic on-line quality checks. Jürgen Pauly from Deutsche See, Germany's market leader in fish and seafood, explained how his company's success is based on worldwide sourcing, quality management and optimised logistics.

Production trends in the European Union show a strong drop in catch between 1995 and 2001, partly outweighed by a slow progression in fish farming. In Europe, 43 per cent of fish farms handle trout and 30 per cent salmon. In distribution, modern retail is playing an increasingly important role, handling 55 per cent to 80 per cent of the market share, depending on the country. Traditional fishmongers continue to play an important role in South Europe.

Over 80 participants representing 53 companies from 11 European countries as well as Canada, Mexico, the USA and New Zealand, took part in the Packforum event.

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