Nova aims to solve the meal kits packaging challenge
New products and film structure designs from Nova Chemicals Corp. are designed to help keep food fresh in transit.
With the goal of improving convenience as more consumers do their food shopping online, Nova Chemicals Corp. is helping film processors, converters, and brand owners develop sustainable packaging for the fast-growing meal kits industry.
“Solving the packaging challenge is key to transforming the meal kits business from a trend to a permanent segment of the food market,” Mark Kay, Nova’s polyethylene (PE) performance films leader, said in a Nova statement. “Packaging materials, such as our high-performance PEs, help ensure that fresh food deliveries are still truly fresh when the consumer arrives home to a meal-kit box on their doorstep.”
Meal kits – the subscription services for ready-to-cook meal recipes and ingredients – are growing three times faster than any other food segment, the statement continued. “Perishable food deliveries create new challenges for the supply chain including product freshness, package integrity and package sustainability,” Nova said. “Instead of bulk deliveries to the grocery store that are then merchandised and hand-selected by the consumer, foods are portioned by co-packers or distribution facilities and shipped to the consumer’s home – a very different supply chain that often results in more packaging overall. In addition, unlike the brick and mortar system, the seller retains responsibility for e-commerce deliveries until it reaches the consumer’s home and the consumer inspects it.”
Which is why Nova has developed several PE resins for e-commerce primary food packaging. The new VPsK914 PE grade, for example, is described as an ultra-durable sealant resin that is tough enough for granola and bone-in chicken, and can even replace plastomers in some applications. Another new grade, called SPsK919, is commonly used in heavy duty sacks and has the stiffness-toughness balance, creep resistance, and sealant properties for heavier food e-commerce packages.
Nova has also designed recyclable film structures that have the properties required for food e-commerce. The company’s PE and expandable styrenics businesses also have been working on a conceptual design for the insulating vessels used to ship weekly meal kit subscriptions.
“Meal kit delivery companies face a huge challenge in keeping fresh foods at their proper temperature until the consumer unpacks the order at home,” said Bob Stoffa, Nova’s expandable styrenics sales leader. “Many people who’ve tried one of these services has a story about a delayed or damaged vessel, or arriving home late, only to find their weekly order has spoiled ingredients. Customized vessel design can greatly reduce this problem, and a reusable vessel has tremendous sustainability benefits as well.”