Founded by the Moreno family in 1988, Olé Mexican Foods, Norcross, Ga., uses traditional Mexican ingredients and techniques passed down through generations to make the highest-quality Mexican cheeses and sausages.
However, one of its most popular food items—queso fresco—presents a unique challenge for brands.
The preferred packaging for queso fresco is round and puck-shaped with brand information printed on the top and bottom only. Packages are then stacked on top of each other in the retail dairy case to prevent the whey from gravity feeding out of the cheese. Stacking limits shoppers to a side view of the products, resulting in a “sea of white” with no visible branding. In order to identify the brand, shoppers have to pick up the packages.
Olé Foods was determined to make their product stand out in the sea of white. After testing a number of solutions, including adding inserts to the round package, Olé determined that printing on the side walls of the thermoformed cheese was the answer. They then needed a packaging expert to help them design, develop and apply the graphics before the product was heated and formed into a pocket.
That’s why Olé Foods reached out to Sealed Air Food Care, Charlotte, N.C.
Sealed Air ran a series of tests to determine how the thermoform package material changed during the forming process and how to control these changes. They tested a number of factors, including the reactions of different film types and a variety of product thicknesses and depths. Not only was Sealed Air looking for the right solution, but it also needed to balance the solution cost and performance.
Key to the process was the tight collaboration between Olé and Sealed Air. The Moreno family gave Sealed Air access to the Olé plant, so the Sealed Air team could run trials on potential solutions.
“Without the teamwork between Olé Foods and Sealed Air, we would not have been able to develop the solution as quickly as we did. Olé was standing by, ready to test each new solution whenever we were ready,” says Kyle Bullock, account manager for Sealed Air Food Care.
After testing a number of potential solutions, Sealed Air found the perfect combination of process, performance and price. Knowing that Olé preferred trap-printed film, Sealed Air developed an innovative tool that compensated for the distortion predicted to take place on the forming web. The tool resulted in proper sizing and placement of the artwork on the side walls of the queso fresco packages.
Olé Foods’ queso fresco product is now available in a visually pleasing package with graphics that are easy to read at a distance. In fact, it’s said to be the only queso fresco product in the dairy case that lets consumers see the brand without having to pick it up.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the visibility and recognition the new packaging has given us in the marketplace,” adds Blake Johnson, vice president at Olé Foods. “Our product now has the differentiation that none of our competitors has. If you take a photo of the Hispanic cheese section, you’ll see a sea of white with our product being the only one that stands out.”
Olé then applied the new packaging to two different brands and a total of eight different SKUs, and consulted with Sealed Air to solve more challenges and deliver industry-changing innovations.
“We are working with Sealed Air on more unique packaging solutions for our products,” says Johnson. “It makes production fun when you have a partner who works with you to come up with creative ideas that can move our business forward.”