Management teams at Legacy Foods Manufacturing, PurFoods, and Salmon Express Seafood all felt that their very different food products had the best chance of success in the marketplace if the cups they were packed in had reliable and professional-looking heat-sealed tamper-evident seals in place. Steve Sallenback, co-owner of Legacy Foods Manufacturing, an Elk Grove Village, IL-based co-packer that produces and packages food products for other companies, puts it this way.
“What is the cost of not having tamper-evident packaging? Probably never breaking into retail or ever taking your food start-up to the next level. Not only have consumers come to expect it as a sign that the product is safe, but also retailers increasingly demand such packaging as part of their food safety programs designed to limit potential liability.”
Unfortunately, high-speed portion packaging equipment is tough to come by for small operations, since price tags too often range in the six figures. This has created a market demand for low-cost, manual foil-sealing machines—small enough to fit on a table-top or kitchen counter—that allow food start-ups to provide professional, tamper-evident packaging from day one. Precisely such systems are available from Wilpack Packaging.
“For food entrepreneurs trying to get their product into a retail setting, Wilpack’s manual sealer is the lowest-cost foil-sealing machine I’ve seen for portion-control cups,” says Sallenback. “It’s a stepping stone to help small specialty food start-ups get onto retail shelves and start building volume with minimal capital risk.”
Another plus is that sealed portion-control cups minimize the potential leaks or spills from non-airtight covers such as snap-on lids, says Sallenback. “Since a foil seal is more spill proof than a simple snap-on lid, it protects against unwanted leaks or spills in the grocery bag.” He adds that pre-printed foil seals on portion control cups, with the start-up’s name, logo, or ingredients, can also provide branding.
Also benefiting from recent installations of Wilpack equipment is PurFoods, an Ankeny, IA-based provider of freshly made meals that are home-delivered nationwide. “A foil seal can preserve product shelf life and freshness about four times longer than a typical snap-on lid,” says Kevin O’Rourke, food scientist and Chief Operating Officer at PurFoods. If the foil seal is applied while the food is hot, adds O’Rourke, it can further prolong product life and quality because as the food cools a partial vacuum is created inside the cup. This partial vacuum is usually not achievable with most plastic extrusions or laminations, he adds.
In PurFoods’ case, tabletop machines from Wilpack came first, the kind that seal 8 to 12 containers of various sizes per minute. “At first, we wanted to see if we could compete with existing food producers, and we were looking for new avenues of growth,” says O’Rourke. “After starting out with foil sealing on a smaller scale, we grew to need more and now use two automatic rotary fill and seal machines.” Speeds on Wilpack systems reach as high as 80 containers/min.
O’Rourke appreciates the fact that Wilpack also acted as a consultant to help PurFoods move from a small operation to one that required more automation. “They worked with us from the beginning,” he says. “They helped us optimize our process and create samples of everything from puddings and jellos to tapiocas and fruit cups. They walk you from your start-up stage to fully automated lines, so you can start small from your kitchen and scale up as your business grows.”
Tacoma, WA-based Salmon Express Seafood, a wholesale salmon processor, recognized an opportunity when customers began asking for retail-sized portion packaging of its salmon roe. To add a retail side to his business, Alex Tulchinsky, Salmon Express Seafood’s founder and co-owner, turned to a table-top foil sealing machine from Wilpack Packaging. With the packaging equipment manufacturer’s cooperation, he optimized a new product category for his business: a half-pound retail plastic container of salmon roe that is selling well.
“The foil seal assures customers that our product is safe, and it’s branded with our name and logo to build brand loyalty,” says Tulchinsky, who also covers the product with a lid and sells it frozen for longer product life. The added retail sales to his business have encouraged Tulchinsky to explore new retail products in foil-sealed portion packaging for consumers on the go.
“To meet the public’s need for healthful, snack-sized food, we’re considering expanding into salmon jerky, smoked salmon, and salmon sausages,” says Tulchinsky, who has already worked with Wilpack Packaging to create product samples. “I believe if we make it convenient, it could become as popular as beef jerky with health-minded consumers.”
“Cups are the preferred way of portion control whether single use or deli style,” concludes Sallenback. “Today’s low-cost foil heat-sealing machines, along with companies that collaborate with start-ups to help them grow, provide new opportunities for food entrepreneurs, retailers, and the public.”