Your company spends time, money and other resources on package design. You ensure that accurate nutrition information, step-by-step preparation instructions and a strong brand identity all make it on to the front of your box, wrapper or bag.

But, if you neglect to make that package resealable - one of the first things your consumer may do is toss it in the garbage.

“When consumers re-package food because the primary package didn’t do its job, the branding is usually discarded,” says Tom Slidel, market development manager at Printpack Inc., Atlanta. “Not only is this a waste of packaging material, but the brand name, code date, instruction for use, etc. are no longer in front of, or available to, the consumer. This leads to ‘mystery brands’ in the freezer and refrigerator and a lower probability of re-purchase because people may forget the brand they originally purchased.”

A number of factors play into making a package successful, but in today’s market where households are smaller and money is tighter, making a package resealable is more important than ever. Fortunately, there are more options for resealability than even a few years ago.

While different products call for different methods, in the refrigerated and frozen food sector, peel-and-seal solutions are fitting the bill by helping protect brand identity, maintaining product freshness and convenience and keeping costs manageable.

Protecting your brand

Clearly, the loss of brand recognition – when a consumer tosses a package in the garbage – could be a huge detriment to food processors who view their packaging as an asset. In a recent survey, food and beverage industry executives indicated that this year they will focus on and invest in packaging initiatives, despite (or because of?) the economic downturn.

Clear Seas Research, Troy, Mich., conducted the survey early this year and reported that 40 percent of executives said they plan to increase their company’s focus on packaging, while 49 percent said they would maintain the same amount. The same group said their biggest packaging concerns were product protection, brand image and product differentiation.

“The advantages of all resealable packaging is primarily branding and improved product performance,” says Heather Chandler, president of SealStrip Corp., in Boyertown, Pa. “Specifically, on the branding issue, when a product remains in its original package and that package continues to be functional by reducing in size, keeping the product contained and keeping the brand name visible to the consumer until the next purchase, the brand has likely developed a repeat and loyal customer.”

But sometimes just having resealable functionality isn’t enough. Printpack’s Slidel emphasizes that the seal must be easy to use and clearly visible for a package to have staying power.

“Everyone wants to differentiate and maximize the return on their packaging investment,” he says. “If the reseal feature doesn’t function properly, or consumers don’t notice it on the package, then it probably isn’t providing the return, in terms of brand loyalty, that is desired.”

He adds that a recent ethnographic survey conducted by PrintPack found that reclose features on products were not always noticed or used by consumers. The bottom line is the feature must be “very noticeable” and must function correctly to earn brand loyalty.

So fresh and so easy

In other words, the resealable feature must protect and maintain product quality and be simple to use – attributes that may vary depending on what product is inside. Resealable packaging is ideal for any foods destined for multiple eating occasions, says Chandler. This list includes frozen vegetables, frozen bakery products, frozen snacks and refrigerated meats and cheeses – among others. Each of these products benefits from a tight seal in the freezer or refrigerator. 

“A resealable reduces open packages and product exposure to oxygen and resulting freezer burn, keeping the product fresh for longer,” says Chandler. “The reseal also prevents the product from being exposed to any freezer odors … keeping products fresher.”

PrintPack Market Development Manager Tony Alvarez adds that the more a consumer spends on a product, the more important the seal becomes.

“In general it is more important for consumers to keep higher value food products neatly contained and fresher because the consequences of not doing so have a greater financial impact,” he says.

PrintPack’s newest resealable development, called Re-Seal It, is a finely perforated film atop a thermoformed tray that peels back to access the product and can be resealed with a gentle swipe.

“It is easy open, easy access and very easy reclose,” says Slidel.

Re-Seal It is designed to work with vacuum- and gas-flushed food applications and adheres in wet and fatty (meat/cheese) food applications as well as dry.

A different peel-and-seal application comes from Curwood, a Bemis Co. subsidiary in Oshkosh, Wis.

Market Manager Pete Bruehl explains, “Our system utilizes a proprietary, high barrier, reclosable sealant layer that is built into a laminated, non-forming film that seals to a polyester-based, high barrier forming web.”

Called the Curwood EZ Peel Reseal, this package lets users peel back film from a rigid base and hermetically reseal the package multiple times. Bruehl adds that the E-Z Peel is designed to work with food items such as chicken strips, sliced and shaved deli meats, sliced or shingled cheese, pepperoni and prosciutto.

“These items fit well for resealable packaging because they are usually found in package sizes that accommodate multiple-use and are not consumed in one serving,” he says.

Another multi-serve packaging option is SealStrip’s Peel&Seal, a pressure-sensitive tape that is applied to the full length of a flexible package such as a pouch. As a product is used up, the package can be rolled down and the adhesive tape can be used to seal the rolled package.

“We think the brilliant simplicity of Peel&Seal is what makes it unique,” says Chandler. “Because it is applied to the full length of the package, the consumer has a non-adhesive area to grab the full length of the package and also an adhesive area the full length of the bag.”

Chandler says the Peel&Seal system is used by: Rosina Foods for frozen meatballs; Fresh Express, for its bagged salads; and General Mills, for use with frozen biscuits. She adds that the system also is used in foodservice applications. The tape comes in different sizes so that foodservice operators’ larger portions can be sealed as well.

“An advantage of Peel&Seal is that as the product is used, the bag is rolled down to match the amount of product left in the bag,” Chandler adds. “This provides an easy and quick visual of the amount of product remaining and ensures compact storage of the nearing empty packages.”

Costs in check

Each of these peel and seal applications has another benefit. Chandler, Bruehl and Slidel all tout the affordability of their packaging programs in comparison to other resealable options. Part of the reason? The systems don’t require processors to invest in new packaging equipment.

“Manufacturing [executives] are looking for a resealable feature that can be applied in-line with their packaging equipment for maximum flexibility, but not interfere with their valuable floor space and plant equipment utilization,” Chandler says. “They are also looking for a feature that maintains their non-reseal line speeds. The Peel&Seal applicator takes little to no floor space and can easily be bypassed.”

Chandler adds that SealStrip guarantees the applicator will not cause a reduction in line speeds. Also helping keep costs down, the system requires “almost no electric and almost as little air pressure.”

Bruehl adds that Curwood’s EZ Peel Reseal offers “cost reduction and source reduction.

“Processors typically want to use existing equipment instead of investing in new equipment,” he says. “Curwood’s EZ Peel Reseal requires minimal machine modifications for customers with semi-rigid, gas flush capabilities.”

Another advantage is the weight and size of the package he says. “These packages use less material and cost less than tub/lid, overcap systems. They are easy to store, take up less space and therefore reduce shipping costs.”

Officials say PrintPack’s Re-Seal-It system can easily integrate with thermoform packaging machinery, reduce package dimensions, reduce materials costs and the system can run “at optimum speeds on packaging line.”

Slidel adds that Re-Seal-It can increase bottom line in another way. “A brand marketer may find that adding resealability to his/her package actually increases consumption due to snacking or simply more frequent use. For example, if it were convenient to reclose a bag of chocolate morsels, perhaps more people would snack on them versus using them for recipes or special events.”

Along the same lines, “Americans with busy schedules do more and more snacking in the car and need resealable packages,” Chandler adds, and also notes, “When it comes to prepared foods, whether there is one family member or six, when a food is purchased ready-to-eat, it should be resealable because family members may eat at different times.”

With a resealable package, processors can be sure that each family member will see their brand name, and have the instructions and nutrition facts, in front of them when they do.

Sustainable - sealed and delivered

Anything reusable has obvious sustainable benefits. Resealable packaging is no different. “A package that recloses is more sustainable than one that does not and requires the consumer to repackage his or her food in a plastic bag or other alternative packaging,” says Tony Alvarez, market development manager at PrintPack Inc., Atlanta.

Packaging suppliers are taking things a step further by responding to food processors demand for greener packaging.

•    SealStrip Corp., Boyertown, Pa., says its Peel&Seal packaging uses 68 to 94 percent less plastic than other resealable packaging systems.

•    Printpack says its Re-Seal It packaging results in low material waste on packaging lines and has less solid waste reduction when compared to clamshell or tub packaging.

•    Curwood, Oshkosh, Wis., says it can incorporate up to 20 percent post-consumer recycled polyester into its EZ Peel Reseal system.