Thanks to a new clear polypropylene (PP) plastic jar from Graham Packaging, customers in US supermarkets will be able to see exactly what they are getting when they buy sliced peaches, apricot halves or fruit medley sold under the Libby's brand, an innovation designed to pander to growing demand for quality.
"The new packaging is part of our ongoing commitment to offer the freshest possible product to the consumer," said Kathy Sheldon, vice president of marketing at the Signature Fruit Company, owner of the Libby's brand. "We are making the product visible to people, so they can see for themselves the superior quality of what they're buying for their families."
Plastic containers are becoming increasingly widespread in areas where other packaging media have traditionally dominated - such as PET packaging for beer or soft drinks, cans for wine, cartons for fruit juice and soups and pouches for sauces and seafood products.
Until now it had been impossible to find a plastic that could withstand the high temperatures necessary for the retort process - 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes - but according to Terry Keener, product line manager for food and beverage polyolefins at Graham Packaging, the multi-layer, lightweight, wide-mouth polypropylene container used by Libby's was believed to be the first to be able to withstand these temperatures. He added that the company had applied a vacuum-panel technology similar to that used in its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) hot-fill containers.
The new jar incorporates vacuum panels that 'barrel out' when heated and then pull back into shape after cooling. The six-layer walls include an oxygen barrier and an ultraviolet absorber. The jar has a net weight of 24.5 ounces and holds 23 fluid ounces.
Don Jepson, director of engineering for Signature Fruit, said the plastic container demonstrated the company's commitment to innovative packaging ideas.
"Graham has been an exceptional supplier," he added. "They have provided technical support at all levels of the development of the package. They have demonstrated an exceptionally high level of customer service and support."
While retailers and consumers are likely to be attracted by the unusual nature of 'canned' peaches in a plastic jar, fir Signature Fruit, the decision to switch to plastic was more taken for more practical reasons: plastic is easier to grip, does not break, runs better on filling lines and is lighter. The jars also have the advantage of being resealable.