When Being Flexible Means Taking Heat

If flexible packaging were human, rather than just highly-molecular molded polymer, we’d call it masochistic: these days the combination of flexible packaging and thermal processing techniques — from home microwaves to large-scale, in-plant pasteurization — are letting plastic bask in microwaves like it was poolside.

In all seriousness, though, innovation has brought consumers and processors new conveniences and future possibilities, reports foodprocessing.com, an industry publication.

In the consumer aisle, innovative engineering and packaging have allowed consumers to not only cook vegetables and simple pastas, but also restaurant-quality meals. Aldi, the Batavia, Ill.-based grocer, offers six frozen entrees in microwavable “Smart Pouches” which are designed to combine steaming and induction heating to cook a variety of foods—even frozen raw seafood.

This allows temperatures to go higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit – the limit for steaming. New flexible packaging is allowing consumers to purchase, transport, easily cook -and easily consume directly out of the package – high-quality meals.

Incredible.

Food processors and packagers are benefitting, too, especially when it comes to post-packaging pasteurization of certain products, like meat cooked at a specific plant. Simply, advancements in technology are preventing contamination and promoting efficiency throughout the manufacturing process.

For consumer ready meat products it is common for food processors to cook the meat first and then make it tastier with secondary processes, such as smoking. This secondary treatment, however, makes the product vulnerable to bacterial contamination.

To combat this, processors are using post-packaging pasteurization. In this process, the meat is totally processed, packaged, and then heated to just above 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This also extends the product’s shelf life two weeks.

Indeed, packaging has come a long way. Or, as Kate Bertrand Connolly, a packaging editor at foodprocessing.com put it: “you could say that films are just getting warmed up.”

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