NEW CASE-READY TECHNOLOGY COULD LEAD TO MEAT DEPARTMENT CHANGES

TORONTO -- A new development in case-ready technology is going to lead the meat department's struggle against food-service competition, a marketing executive told attendees of the annual AMI convention here on Saturday.While existing modified atmosphere packaging is well suited for ground meats and limited-distribution muscle beef cuts, a new product for fresh-cut beef eliminates the problem of discoloration

TORONTO -- A new development in case-ready technology is going to lead the meat department's struggle against food-service competition, a marketing executive told attendees of the annual AMI convention here on Saturday.

While existing modified atmosphere packaging is well suited for ground meats and limited-distribution muscle beef cuts, a new product for fresh-cut beef eliminates the problem of discoloration that has impeded consumer acceptance of MAP packaging, said Walker Stockley, marketing manager for W.R. Grace & Co., a division of Cryovac, Duncan, S.C.

"[It] is an important new concept from my company that was first test-marketed here in Canada. We call it peelable vacuum skin packaging.

"This is an interesting system where fresh-cut beef is placed on trays that are then sealed with a special coextruded lidding stock. A peelable barrier layer locks out oxygen, extending freshness. The barrier layer is removed just before the product is paced in the meat case.

"In about 20 minutes, the meat 'blooms' to that rich red color customers equate with freshness. At this point it has about three days' case life.

"Unlike master packing, which requires an entire pouch of product to be displayed when the container is opened, peelable VSP allows merchandising of the product one package at a time.

"It is an ideal choice for fresh beef and an exciting option for an industry that has struggled with the challenge of distributing case-ready products with adequate shelf life and the bloom required by the retailer and the consumer."

One retailer has test-marketed vacuum-skin packaging with some success, according to Stockley.

"Safeway Canada has a very successful marketing program for beef cuts in the VSP program. Obtained from Lucerne Foods in Calgary, it creates much longer shelf life by preventing bloom until the product is placed in the retail case. Safeway conducted the pilot marketing program for this product and they have expanded it well beyond the original test sites."