The Austin, Texas-based firm (in tandem with Crown Holdings) has developed a self-heating packaging component (pictured) for use in beverages and food called HeatGenie, which sits in the bottom of product packaging – for instance, a can of coffee.
After one push of the button, the patent-pending product heats a 10oz portion of coffee, hot chocolate or soup to 145F (63C) in two minutes.
Developed since 2008, it uses solid-fuel technology within a modular heat source weighing just 1.33oz: as opposed to previous technologies using quicklime or other chemicals with water, the firm claims that its natural food-safe material provides high content energy and heat at a controlled rate.
Beats earlier systems
Heating times are four to six times faster than earlier self-heating systems, the firm claims, while its heater itself is eight times more compact, interesting given that Nestle withdrew its self-heating coffee can from UK sale in 2002 due to customer disappointment: 210ml of product in a 330ml can.
To date the heated packages have only been sold in small quantities to the US Army for evaluation purposes, but Heat Genie said that an order of up to 5m units would oblige a large scale packaging manufacturer to make necessary capital investments.
“HeatGenie can now finalise negotiations with its large-scale manufacturing and packaging partners to bring this game-changing technology to the consumer packaged goods industry.”
HeatGenie said that the technology was now in “active evaluation” with a number of multinational food and beverage companies, and it plans to have functional samples of the self-heating package available for testing by October 2012, with full-scale production expected to begin in 2013.
Enticing large brands
But Rosemary Whaling, vice president business development noted that their evaluation periods were long “and it makes sense for us to launch with a more nimble, smaller brand”.
“Working with a dynamic innovative brand in Europe to launch this new technology will build the interest and confidence of the larger brands. We’re inviting the early participation of additional regional brands as the logical way to ramp towards the hundreds of millions of units that will come from the national brands.”
The US Army purchased some HeatGenie units for evaluation in late March, and the company said that the heating mechanism in standard Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) rations had not changed significantly for decades, but that its technology was both quicker and single- rather than multi-step.
At the time, Daniel Abramowicz, chief technology officer at Crown Holdings, said: “We believe this state-of-the-art self-heating technology is the best technology available and has the potential to take self-heating applications beyond the military and into the consumer market,” he added.