We are all looking for something quick, tasty and interesting when it comes to re-fuelling at lunchtime, and with more and more people eating at their desk and grabbing lunch on the go, there’s never been a better time for packaged small-format lunches with easy to heat and easy to open features. At the same time the eco-conscious consumer want to see his/her lunch not only made from healthy ingredients but also presented in a responsible packaging.
As an environmental solution, CGL Pack, a small but innovative packaging company in Annecy/France, developed in 2008 the “Optimum Pack” for the French manufacturer of diced cheese “Menus du Monde”.
The Optimum Pack was a 300 ml (110 g of product) thermoformed plastic tray which sits in another tray, made from folding paperboard that provides the necessary rigidity and gives the printing possibilities. No glue was used. It is a real eco-design, as the packaging facilitates an easy separation of the two materials (paperboard and plastic) when discarded, as there is no glue or other fixative between the two.
With this design CGL Pack became the reference for optimal solutions in terms of ecology, i.e. a design whose environmental impact is minimized while satisfying customer needs.
Two years later a new trend emerged in France. Paperboard boxes with ready meals which were easy to prepare and which did not even require a plate for serving.
Stoeffler located in the French Alsace, home to many a culinary recipe, decided to launch its bestseller (Choucroute) in a box. The content of the ‘Choucroute’ box resembles the traditional sauerkraut with its cabbage, sausage, bacon and potatoes, but in small pieces so the consumer doesn’t need a knife to eat it.
Amazingly the 300gr Choucroute packed in a plastic tray, was not supplied by French CGL Pack, the original owner of the patented double-pack, but supplied by the Danish company Faerchplast, which had developed a range of plastic cups. Enclosed in a paperboard box, the pack includes a fork so the dish is ready to eat after 2 minutes in the microwave.
Even though the plastic tray is hot when removed from the microwave, the consumer won’t burn his fingers as the surrounding cardboard packaging remains cool.
This was all in rigid plastic and a more or less non-automatic operation, as the cups were supplied separately as were the paperboard boxes.
It was to be expected that, as packaging costs and hence operating costs are a major consideration in profitability calculations, the paperboard/plastic pack should enter the world of the machinery developer. And it did.
CFS Germany GmbH, in Biedenkopf-Wallau/Germany developed the EcoPlus, an inexpensive alternative to the cardboard and prefabricated tray solution, as described above. And with the EcoPlus they developed the automatic packaging line.
The advantage of this new packaging is its simple structure. It consists on the outside of paperboard and on the inside of film. Both parts are separated by an air compartment. The cardboard can be printed all over. The film insert consists of rigid or flexible film. If PP film is used there is no reason why it shouldn’t be heated in a microwave. The paperboard will then only become hand-hot thanks to the special moulding of the film. After use the paperboard and the film are disposed of separately.
As the video shows the air between cardboard and film, in which you find the edible product, is necessary, because the consumer should be able to hold the cardboard in his/her hand while the product in the film is very hot after heating it up in the microwave.
The EcoPlus combined paperboard/film solution is highly profitable and is suitable for packages which contain snacks and are heated in the microwave. With a paperboard fraction of up to 70% and a film fraction of approx. 30% it is an especially environmentally friendly packaging format. It can be used on the CFS thermoformers PowerPak RT and NT.