The frozen food industry consistently strives to enhance the customer experience through innovative packaging solutions. In this case, Impermea Materials was approached by a forward-thinking company that had been working on the following problem for over two years. They sought to revolutionize the frozen food industry by creating packaging that mimicked the convenience and taste of freshly made food while staying sustainable, recyclable, and capable of withstanding extreme temperature changes.
The main object of this project was to develop a frozen food packaging system simplified into a process that allows consumers to take a frozen food item from the freezer, place it directly into the oven or microwave, cook the food thoroughly, and serve the frozen meal from the same container for consumption. The solution would entirely revolutionize customer experiences by eliminating the plastic film (polyethylene or PE) that currently wraps many frozen food items to protect from moisture, and the package would eliminate additional corrugate used in traditional frozen packaging today. This entails the frozen food packaging going from freezer to oven while providing grease resistance, moisture vapor transmission barrier properties, and release properties despite various temperature changes. The designed packaging had to meet FDA, A-H compliance, offer dual ovenability, excellent foldability, and gluability, and provide an elevated customer experience from start to finish.
Criteria for Success:
- Performance: The designed packaging needed to exhibit superior oil and grease resistance beyond KIT 12 levels throughout the time in the oven and for up to seven days after baking. Additionally, maintaining the desired barrier in freezing temperatures for storage.
- Moisture Barrier Properties: Maintaining freshness was crucial because the food items were stored in the freezer aisle, as moisture is a leading factor for bacterial growth and food spoilage.
- Release Properties: The packaging must provide exceptional release properties permitting the frozen food items to easily separate from the packaging after cooking and through serving.
- Foldability: The ability of the desired substrate to be folded and obtain the desired shape after being treated with the coating solution.
- Glueability: The desired substrates must still be able to be glued in desired areas to create the intended shape.
- Organolepotic Preservation: The coating used in the packaging must not affect the taste or smell of the frozen food item or meal.
- Safety and Compliance: The packaging must meet FDA, A-H compliance and pass the dual ovenability test.
- Sustainability: The solution must be environmentally friendly, recyclable, repulpable, and PFAS-free, alongside eliminating the previously used PE film in traditional frozen food packaging resulting in plastic-free packaging.
- Aesthetic Appeal: The client desired special colored pigment to enhance the elegance and visual appeal. This was particularly challenging since all the above characteristics had to be combined with an FDA complaint pigment that did not migrate to the food.
After research, initial conversations, and collaboration with the client, Impermea Materials recommended using a modified version of OLEO-PAK 4100, an oil & grease resistant coating as the primary solution with a supplemented topcoat of HYDRO-PAK + MVTR 4040, a superhydrophobic coating with added Moisture Vapor Transmission (MVTR) barrier properties. Preliminary testing yielded promising results, but adjustments were needed to the first proposed solution to meet the desired performance of the coatings.
To meet the company's specific requirements, Impermea Materials modified the initial chemistries further to enhance the intercoat adhesion and specific characteristics for performance. During testing, the coatings were engineered to achieve less than a 5 COBB value after 60 minutes and provide substantial oil resistance for up to seven days.
Implementation and Results:
Impermea Materials refined the coating formulations and provided an efficient, successful solution in just two months. Resulting in no staining, no oil or grease penetration, no organoleptic change, intact foldability & glueability, with excellent release properties throughout the testing of the substrate. After satisfactory results were achieved, the product underwent rigorous lab testing, including preliminary testing at a pilot scale and commercial scale-up.
The innovative packaging system met all the desired criteria of moisture barrier, release properties, maintaining organoleptic properties, glueability, foldability, safety compliance, and sustainability. The customer expressed great satisfaction with Impermea Materials’ coating solution, which proved to be the only successful solution after more than two years of internal testing. Through a successful partnership, Impermea Materials refined the coating formulations and delivered an efficient and cost-effective solution. The innovative packaging system revolutionized the customer experience in the frozen food aisle, bringing the frozen food industry closer to the quality of freshly made food desired by consumers.
Impermea Materials, formerly known as DetraPel Industrial, is an advanced materials company based in Massachusetts that synthesizes and manufactures the highest-performing barrier solutions, which are PFAS-free and plastic-free. Our paper & paperboard packaging product line allows customers to unlock repulpable, recyclable, compostable, and PFAS-free product innovation. We offer customizable oil & grease resistant (OGR), moisture/water vapor transmission barrier (MVTR), fan-apart adhesives, and release coatings enabling customers to win new business and gain additional market share. Our products replace existing coatings that do not allow materials like paper to replace plastic due to a lack of performance. Traditional solutions in the market are facing regulatory action due to PFAS, Plastic, or other less sustainable materials. Our solutions provide an offering that genuinely outperforms legacy technologies without sacrificing the sustainability you need.
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