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Barrier in-mold labeling prolongs shelf life of single-serve, ready-to-eat soups

NaturCrem soup
Injection molder ITC Packaging (Ibi, Spain) and Verstraete IML (Maldegem, Belgium) helped Spanish food producer Dulcesol (Gandia) develop packaging for its line of soups that combines shelf-appeal with long-term non-refrigerated storage requirements.

Enjoying a serving of ready-to-eat soup at work or at home to quiet those beginning hunger rumblings is a healthy alternative to sugary snacks. However, the challenge comes in ensuring the industrially produced soup gets to consumers as natural, fresh, and flavorful as possible. It’s a challenge that injection molder ITC Packaging (Ibi, Spain) and Verstraete IML (Maldegem, Belgium) dealt with, when Spanish food producer Dulcesol (Gandia) approached them with the request to provide an innovative solution to its single-serving soups.

Storage wasn’t Dulcesol’s only requirement—the packaging for the Naturcrem creamy soups also had to be aesthetically distinctive on the shelf. Dulcesol Group Marketing Director Paco Olaso, who is also responsible for developing packaging for new products, commented: “Value for money is in our corporate DNA. First of all, this is expressed in the products themselves. For example, our new Naturcrem creamy soups are completely organic [with] absolutely no preservatives. The packaging must tie in with this perfectly by being visually attractive and maximally guaranteeing the quality of the soup.”

That is why Olaso contacted the company's long-term partners at ITC Packaging. “We know that their packaging comes with added value,” said Olaso. “Together we ultimately developed an attractive package with an in-mold oxygen-barrier label from Verstraete, which extends shelf life without requiring refrigeration. This results in significant energy savings. In addition, the look is impeccable—the pentagonal base and round, open top make the package an innovative format in all respects within the ready-to-eat creamy soups segment.”

Oscar Alcaide, Account Manager at ITC Packaging, commented that the challenge in developing the new packaging “was to develop an individual package that is microwave-safe and has an oxygen barrier. 

“Given that the product is 100% natural and doesn’t contain any preservatives, in-mold labeling (IML) was the answer because it not only met all of those requirements but the packaging also has a 360° decorative, non-removable IML,” Alcaide said.

The IML oxygen barrier label ensures that Naturcrem soups have a shelf life of up to one year without refrigeration. Benedict Adins, Regional Sales Manager, Southern Europe, at Verstraete IML, explained that “an IML label with an oxygen barrier reduces the oxygen permeability of IML packaging. The oxygen transmission rate is up to 100 times less compared to packaging with a standard IML label.”

The labels also had to withstand pasteurization. The heat and humidity involved in the pasteurization process meant that this would be challenging. “To do this, Verstraete IML utilized a combination of specific inks, a special lacquer and a pasteurization-resistant oxygen barrier film,” said Adins. “This meant that the labels on the IML packaging would maintain their quality and look, even after pasteurization.”

Dulcesol’s Olaso said that another requirement for the package’s development involved individual portions. “After all, millennials want responsible foods with a minimum of trash and food waste,” he noted. “We are meeting these desires in the form of Naturcrem. Additionally, IML is 100% recyclable, given that the packaging and the IML label are made from the same material. Don’t forget that 70% of buying decisions are made when the customer is already standing in front of the store shelves. That’s when packaging tailor-made with the modern consumer in mind can really make a difference.”

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