Packaged meatballs are one of the leading products for an industry-leading meat manufacturer.
Their product flies off grocery store shelves, and they’d like to expand into convenience stores and dollar stores. And while they do sell their meatballs in club stores, their current packaging simply isn’t efficient.
To tackle the introduction of meatballs to convenience and dollar stores, along with revamping of their club store packaging, they teamed up with Harpak-ULMA to design the proper packaging for each store.
Here’s how we used our engineering expertise, along with packaging trends, to come up with new designs for convenience stores and club packs.
What they’re currently using in grocery and club stores
Currently, the meat company’s grocery store uses a 12-ounce modified atmosphere package (MAP) that is refrigerated, microwavable, and approximately an inch deep for their meatballs. Three of these packs are banded together for sale in club stores.
The grocery store packaging works well — we simply optimized the club pack and designed the convenience store packaging from the ground up.
Before starting to design a convenience store pack, we considered what consumers are looking for when shopping at a convenience store. Consumers want food they can purchase and eat quickly with minimal hassle. Designs should be lightweight and portable with smaller, snack-sized portions. Food that’s refrigerated should be microwavable if necessary.
Understanding these trends, we decided to cut the 12-ounce package size in half to 6 ounces. We felt like this is a proper size for single-serve, easy-open meals featured in convenience store refrigerators. The package is MAP, microwavable, and features an easy-peel open. The top film is printed with graphics and the bottom can have a label on it. This pack also has potential in dollar stores and vending machines.
Two features we incorporated in the design stand out for the convenience store pack:
The easy open seal is a common trend in food packaging. Consumers don’t need scissors and won’t be frustrated trying to open your product.
Microwavable packaging is important for refrigerated or frozen food that requires it. Many convenience stores have microwaves so the consumer can easily cook the food on the run.
Similar to convenience stores, we first wanted to examine club store trends before designing the club store packaging. Club stores sell large packages for value savings. The main goal of the package is to fit as much product in their pack as possible.
Refrigerated and frozen foods are different than pantry foods because of space limitations. The package should be large enough to offer club store value but not so large that it takes up all the limited freezer or refrigerated space. However, benefits like microwavability may become moot with a larger pack.
For club stores, this customer is currently using their 12-ounce grocery store pack and banding three of them together for sale.
This isn’t cost efficient due to labor (and associated cost) required to band the three packs together. For argument’s sake, let’s say each 12-ounce pack costs the company 15 cents to make. That means every club store three-pack would cost 45 cents plus the cost of labor to make.
We decided to design a new single pack with a similar footprint as the banded pack. However, instead of 1 inch in depth, we decided to go approximately 2.5 inches in depth. The new, deeper pack holds between 24 and 32 ounces of meatballs. While each new pack would cost slightly higher — say 20 cents — it’s much more cost-effective than the 45 cents plus labor costs for the banded pack.
Apart from the tray design, there are two slightly different options for sealing, pealing, and resealing the film.
Club store option 1:
Option 1 has a hermetic seal around the pack, so it’s sealed completely all around back with a weld seal. A peel-and-reseal label is embedded into the top film. The top film is pre-perforated with the label that covers the perforation so that once the package has been sealed with film, the label is centered on the middle with a perforated film below it.
Now the consumer can peel back the label to get access to the product, and then reseal it.
Club store option 2:
The only difference in the second option is the top film. Instead of having a peel-reseal capability through the perforated top film with a label like the first option, the peel-reseal adhesive has been incorporated into the forming and lidding material.
There is a peel corner for opening and the material combination allows it to be resealed around 10 to 12 times before the adhesive wears out. The first option is slightly more expensive because it is laser perforated and features a printed label. The second option uses peal and reseal material which is slightly less expensive.
For example, one company might choose the first option over the second for presentation and convenient access for the consumer. And another company might choose the second option because it’s slightly cheaper and still serves its purpose in a club store.
To recap, instead of using a hermetically sealed material, the second option uses a peelable structure with reseal adhesive to allow reclose.
More on the design process
A design project like this can take 4-6 weeks on the low end, or about four months on the high end. Every project and client are different.
During the process they had a couple questions:
- Can the package be perforated?
- Can we use a different material but keep the same design?
- Do any formats slow down or speed up the machine?
These are just a couple questions out of many we answered and used to upgrade the meatball pack designs. We incorporated perforation, different materials, and assured them that different designs don’t affect the throughput and speed of the machine.
Moreover, the meat company had positive initial feedback on the designs, and we were on target with their needs and requirements. However, none have been approved or incorporated into their lines and in stores as of yet.
OEMs understand the in depth engineering aspect of packaging machines so they can make a feasible packaging design. To learn more about how your packaging designs affect manufacturability, check out this article.
If you need new ideas and designs for your packaging, Harpak-ULMA offers a package design and prototyping service. We can work together to solve your packaging needs — reach out today to start the conversation.