Packaging protects and provides containment. It serves as a billboard, encouraging consumers to buy particular foods. Packaging maintains the quality and integrity of the foods. While bakers and snack manufacturers want to make great-tasting products, they have to be assured packaging will help preserve that excellence until products reach consumers.

Bakeries and snack producers can choose among many packaging formats. While some choices seem fairly standard, such as placing pan breads in polyethylene and polypropylene bags, others vary greatly. Snack chips, for instance, often come in bags made from a wide range of flexible plastic films, but other options include paperboard canisters. Bag-in-box, gusseted bags and plastic clamshells also abound for cookies and crackers.

Flexible films vary greatly because converters laminate a variety of polymers together to meet processors’ exact needs for thickness, oxygen and moisture barriers, and appearance. Protecting the integrity of the product may be packaging’s most important job, yet it also can deliver a punch through graphics or use of metalized or matte-finish films or even paper.

Opting for paper

In the food packaging industry, Wausau Paper engineers paper-based packaging solutions to meet specific food containment needs. Its packaging resists oil, grease and water.

The food processing industry requires papers for a variety of processes such as manual and automatic packaging. Wausau Paper collaborates with package designers and brand owners to satisfy their requirements and streamline manufacturing processes, according to Bob Frazier, the company’s food sector director.

The company recently introduced new products for microwaveable popcorn bags with new oil and grease barrier technologies. The company’s ProPly (bleached) and Eco Select (unbleached) papers provide functionality, appearance and sustainability advantages for microwaveable popcorn bags.

This starts with inherent oil/grease resistance produced by mechanical means, reducing its reliance on fluorochemical treatments. Wausau Paper’s ability to refine fibers achieves a functional barrier before any additional resistance treatments are added, noted Mr. Frazier.

“Today’s trend is toward canola, palm and other trans-fat-free oils for microwaveable popcorn. These oils are less viscous and more susceptible to bleeding through or leaking from the bag than traditional soybean oil,” he explained. “Wausau Paper’s fiber refining processes create a ‘tortuous path’ barrier from which it is more difficult for oil to escape.”

ProPly and Eco Select papers are also highly char resistant, a particularly critical aspect for the increasingly popular single-serve bags, which generate heat more quickly. The papers can be printed flexographically, thus offering a high degree of ink holdout, which helps to eliminate bleed-through during processing.

Sustainable solutions

In addition to providing a natural look, Wausau Paper’s Eco Select papers can further convey eco-

responsibility to consumers because they are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning the paper is sourced from responsibly managed sustainable forests. The company also offers Eco Select paper that uses Food and Drug Administration-compliant post-consumer waste fiber content.

Increased demands from consumers for environmentally friendly materials have spurred packaging manufacturers to include these materials in their products, according to Herb Knutson, director of marketing, Inline Plastics Corp., Shelton, CT.

“For instance, Inline’s containers are produced from No. 1 recyclable PET material, the same as water bottles, but made using a proprietary method,” he said. “This process achieves such high energy efficiencies that the containers have a carbon footprint as low as competing packaging containing 50% post-consumer recycled content. As a result, customers who use these containers have the dual benefits of low carbon footprint and high sustainability, plus the functional benefits of high-quality PET.”

Recently, Inline introduced two tamper-resistant products in response to increased demand for grab-and-go bakery and snack items. Its Hangables line of rigid plastic clamshell containers features a hang-tab that pops out when the container is closed, enabling it to be merchandised on pegboards and racks. Also, it offers a new 12-oz snack cup with a locking cap and is designed to fit most automobile cup holders.

“Consumers are pushing manufacturers to develop packaging options with better performance capabilities such as longer shelf life and better protection of contents,” Mr. Knutson said. “Rigid plastic containers such as Inline’s Safe-T-Fresh containers meet these requirements.”

Packaging alternatives abound, and it’s a choice that should not be taken lightly. Bakers and snack manufacturers must determine which packages will keep their products fresh the longest, as well as ensure that their products get noticed in supermarkets, convenience stores and the variety of other retail outlets.