The changing lifestyle of many consumers in terms of smaller packaging sizes, snacks, ready meals and chilled and frozen food is driving the innovation for new forms of packaging. Furthermore the modern lifestyle, with people constantly on the move, created a completely new consumer pattern, with consumers demanding practical solutions.
For consumers, it is important that their ready-to-eat meals should not only be healthy with natural ingredients, but could be prepared and consumed without bother. Consumer goods companies have no other choice than making the entire process as straightforward as possible.
With regard to the potential market, plastic trays account for some 80% of the global market in these sectors, whilst pressed board trays account for just 10% along with the same amount for aluminium trays. In the UK alone, the total market consists of some 6.5 billion trays per annum, with 60% of these in the chilled sector and 40% in frozen.
The market for fresh convenience products in Germany is on an upward swing. An increase in the number of single-person households, more meals taken away from home, changing eating habits and quick-and-easy availability are all key factors in the rapidly growing demand for fresh convenience products.
In this segment the grocery chains have been using private-label products to draw in customers and create differentiation in a crowded retail marketplace. Topping each of the meat, poultry and seafood categories are private label products labelled with the store name and sold at supermarket butcher counters, fish counters or pre-packaged in the refrigeration section.
Ready meals require the creation of a packaging utilising an oven-able plastic or paperboard with a PET lining film, whilst chilled short shelf life product could be created from FBB and a film dependant on product life.
But whatever the consumer buys, either the freshly prepared private label ready meal, or the chilled or frozen brand meal, he needs an appliance to heat the meal to make it consumable. Particularly when he is on the go, or wants to eat outdoors he has a problem.
Here is a solution:
The Onda Portable Microwave is a small device used in conjunction with pre-packaged meals that transmits microwaves directly into the sealed food package to heat and cook the contained food. The device slides onto the packaging of prepared meals. As the seal of the packaging is broken, the handheld oven creates a circuit connection. Paper batteries produce the energy needed to cook the food.
This clever solution was presented as one of the finalists at the Electrolux’ Design Lab 2011 held in London this month.
Founded in 2002, the Electrolux annual global design contest was created to find and support the emerging talents of industrial design students and recent graduates in the area of home appliances design. Each year, students from around the world submit ideas for future appliances based on a certain theme. This year’s theme was “intelligent mobility”.
Electrolux received more than 1,300 entries for this year’s competition and whittled that number down to eight finalists, from the USA, Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Slovakia and South Korea, who presented their designs to a jury of expert designers in London on Sept. 7.
Electrolux had created physical models of the concepts, that were on display.
Matthew Schwartz, from the California State University Long Beach, is the designer of the Onda Portable Microwave.
The working is simple. Pre-prepared meals are placed in compatible food containers. When the device is attached to the dish, they seal together, the aluminium contained within the interior of the handheld device, creates a circuit connection when the seal of the packaging is broken and the enclosed food container acts as the cooking chamber which contains all of the microwaves safely inside. Power-paper batteries produce steady and eco-friendly power for efficient cooking and allow it to be used virtually anywhere.
It is perfect for use at home, in the office, for outdoor use, and could be easily adapted for military personnel or natural disaster relief as well.
With the potential for development of complementary accessories such as liquid containers and food storage containers, Onda is the perfect solution for intelligent mobility.
The Onda certainly will revolutionize this market segment, but at the other hand, although a perfect solution, it will require from the manufacturers of ready-to-eat meals to package in (more or less) standardized packages.