Friday, September 14, 2012


Microwave cooking and heating technology has been one of the most pioneering innovations of modern times to which millions of house wives and the food industry must be thankful. Though there is still some controversy regarding the safety of foods processed using microwave frequency, it is a fact that nothing conclusively has been proven that this form of cooking has even 1% safety risks. Use of microwave processing technology is more prevalent as a domestic kitchen appliance than its impact on food industry, probably because of cost factors and uncertainties associated with uniform heating, especially when large quantities are processed. It is the house wife who is being targeted by the packaging industry through newer innovations and developments. In-pouch cooking enabled packaging bags and trays and Susceptor based paper bags are new convenience oriented products being made available to the frozen products industry which enables the house wives to reduce the handling and heating time for converting them into ready to eat preparations. Here is a take on this exciting new direction packaging industry is taking for making the kitchen chores less cumbersome and time consuming.

"Time savings and convenience have been the principal benefits driving consumer demand for microwavable food products to date, and they will continue to be so in the future. The U.S. market for microwavable packaging materials will continue to grow at its current rate, with some added impetus generated by the industry's ability to improve the taste and texture of microwaved products, and to introduce new products that meet the health and fitness concerns of consumers. The study evaluates packaging technologies that are expanding microwavable packaging into new end-user categories by increasing package functionality. One example are self-venting pouches or trays that can be transferred directly from the freezer to the microwave oven, eliminating the need for manual venting by consumers. This feature has helped spur growth in the largest end-user segment—entrees (which in 2011 accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. sales of primary packaging materials for microwavable products)—as well in the fastest growing end-user segment: vegetables. The study forecasts 18.5 percent annual sales growth through 2016 for primary packaging materials for microwavable vegetables. Another innovation, susceptor technology, is an ongoing and major development in microwavable packing that is contributing to the projected high growth rate of particular types of packaging materials, notably paperboard cartons and sleeves for hand-held entrees and pizza slices. Susceptors enable microwave-prepared foods to more closely match the quality, taste and texture of food prepared in conventional ovens. This technology has been instrumental in the relatively high growth rate of folding cartons as a type of microwavable packaging, which the study forecasts to be a 13.2 percent rate of growth per year through 2016".

It is in the US that microwavable packs of frozen food products were introduced first and consumers seem to be liking this new convenience, if the market trend is any indication. Many vegetables and prepared meal packs are now available with pressure releasing provision which make them compatible with programmed microwave heating. Similarly the Susceptor based paper cartons can be expected to become popular because from safety angle paper is supposed to be much better compared to plastics. Of course design and fabrication of such bags require multi disciplinary expertise involving heat transfer, engineering and food science background. More developments can be expected in packaging field in the coming years in evolving dramatically new packaging modes with highest safety credentials.


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