Ball has released what it claims is the first microwavable steel packaging for foods available in North America.
The material will allow processors to offer products in a packaging material suited to the convenience food segment, which continues to show strong growth.
Microwave energy cannot pass through steel, making the material traditionally unsuitable for products meant to be cooked this way. Conventional microwavable food is packaged using polymeric or paper-based materials transparent to microwave radiation, but the shelf life is considerably lower than food packaged in steel.
Ball claims its Fusion-Tek product overcomes the problems by combining a cylinder made from recycled steel with a plastic bottom. The top of the can is sealed with a removable steel cover, over which is a plastic locking cap. Before microwaving, the steel covering is removed and the plastic cap is locked back onto the top of the can.
This allows microwave energy to penetrate the plastic ends of the can, creating a channel for microwave energy to pass through and heat the contents.
The material also offers a shelf life similar to that of regular steel cans, normally about 18 to 24 months, the company claims.
Ball said Fusion-Tek is designed to run on existing steel can filling lines, and can be packaged, stacked, shipped and stored like steel cans.
The Fusion-Tek is a three inch (nine cm) diameter can, that can holding about 15-oz (430g) of product, although a other sizes are available upon request.
The product inside can be heated within three minutes to temperatures of 170C, 338F, the company claims, making the packaging suitable for soups, stews, vegetables, baked beans.
The foam label surrounding the can ensures it is safe to touch after heating, the manufacturer claims. Another safety feature is the locking cap, designed by Stull Technologies, which makes an audible click when secured.
Meanwhile in Europe, France-based Arcelor has teamed up with other packaging manufacturers to develop Creasteel, which they hope will compete with Fusion-Tek.
Creasteel is available as broad, shallow packaging differing from the tall, narrow Fusion-Tek.