From clamshells for produce to trays for salad, plastic has become the packaging of choice for many areas of grocery retail, but recent years have seen a growing awareness of plastic pollution worldwide and increasing calls for sustainable alternatives. JBT’s tray sealing specialist Proseal has emerged at the forefront of this movement thanks to its relationship with cardboard packaging innovator HALOPACK®, and recent innovations are expected to take its usage to the next level.
Although perhaps less pronounced to date in North America, the movement to reduce plastic usage in Europe has grown in strength with every passing year, however the limitations of cardboard-based packaging have often become quickly apparent. From cardboard straws losing shape after prolonged contact with water to legitimate questions over shelf-life feasibility, cardboard has at times appeared to be in a distant second-place to plastic.
However, Halopack and the company that constructs its packages – Proseal – have come up with an alternative which has the distinction of being shelf-life stable, water-tight, gas-tight and hermetically sealable. But, even with Halopack’s benefits, the packaging has until recently only been suitable for microwave cooking. With its latest innovation, that situation is set to change, says Proseal’s Daryl Henshaw. “At Proseal, significant R&D has gone into the development of our range of tray forming & lining machines, with particular attention paid to this new ovenable liner and the impact that has on this process,” he explains. “There are now two variants available: a microwaveable one, and an ovenable one, which has just been developed.
“That is a bit of a game changer for Halopack because the previous liner wasn’t stable enough at oven temperatures to be food-safe and was historically limited to fresh products and microwave-only meals. Now, Halopack is really finding its place in the market and can be considered a true environmentally responsible replacement for all sorts of products, from ready to cook chicken to dual cook ready meals”
Henshaw describes Proseal as being integral to the Halopack story, which he says has been a joint process to bring to market the world’s first hermetically-sealable, ovenable, cardboard-lined tray. One of the packaging’s major advantages, he continues, is an up to 90% reduction in plastic weight thanks to the ‘wafer-thin’ liner. “The liner that goes on the piece of cardboard is only 70-80 microns thick,” says Henshaw. “You compare that to a tray made for plastic packaging say for a ready-meal, you are talking perhaps 700 microns depending on the application.”
Added to that, customers have the benefit of an aesthetically-pleasing product, which can have all the information a supplier or retailer requires printed directly onto the cardboard, thus removing the need for an extra sleeve or labels, and the additional cost and environmental impact associated with this additional packaging.
Although Proseal works with a wide range of companies producing different types of packaging from bamboo to fibreboards, Henshaw says Halopack – with whom Proseal has a strategic relationship – has the extra advantage of the plastic liner, which acts as a full MAP, water and gas barrier. “It can the give the same shelf-life extension as a plastic equivalent and there’s no loss for the consumer,” he says. “So the customer can put their perishable products into the Halopack and know it is going to be as stable as it was in a plastic tray. A lined tray of this style is currently the only method to achieve a hermetic seal with a gas barrier on cardboard.”
Sustainability without compromise
The Halopack tray provides companies with a sustainable solution that adds value and takes nothing away from the product in return. “Often the difficultly with sustainable or environmentally-responsible packaging is there is a compromise to be made: the lack of a moisture barrier, the lack of shelf-life, the lack of a proper hermetic seal,” he adds.
“Such are the sacrifices that often have to be made to become more sustainable with packaging. But not with Halopack. That’s the beauty. It ticks all the boxes: A hermetically sealable, water tight, gas tight, ovenable and microwavable pack. With an up to 90% plastic reduction, all wrapped up in a package that provides a striking, premium, appearance, with no further packaging required.”