There’s nothing quite like going apple picking on a crisp fall day and sampling the ripe apples picked fresh off the tree. I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about apples in this way, but they’re pretty popular. According to Market Watch apples are one of the most frequently consumed fruits in the world and play a vital role in the diet of individuals. They can be consumed in a variety of ways – i.e. eat right off the core, bake into a cake or pie, consume as applesauce in sweetened or unsweetened form, use applesauce in baking as a substitute for a low-sugar baked good – and these days different varieties of applesauce such as blueberry and cherry applesauce, are adding more choices to an already versatile food.
As with all shelf-stable food products, maintaining safety and quality throughout the duration of the products shelf life are key concerns when developing packaging materials for commercially packaged applesauce products.
Continue reading to learn more about some of the key considerations when developing rigid packaging materials for applesauce products and how ICPG can help.
Traditionally, applesauce has been hot-filled in multi-layer barrier polypropylene 4 ounce cups using a PP/EVOH/PP structure since the filling process morphed from form, fill and seal to pre-formed cups. There are several key variables that need to be considered for hot-fill single serve cup applications including target shelf-life, fill height, fill temperature, cup design, formed cup material distribution and residual head-space. Multi-layer barrier structures using polypropylene are ideally suited to meet the rigors of the hot-fill process due to the high heat tolerance of PP, while providing superior aesthetics, organoleptic properties and performance characteristics throughout the supply chain from filling to consumer consumption.
One of the primary elements to achieving target shelf life for applesauce applications is understanding the required OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate) and MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate) specifications, then developing a material structure with the appropriate barrier characteristics to protect the product throughout its desired shelf-life performance. Development of high barrier structures can be achieved through a multi-layer coextrusion process leveraging materials such as EVOH to achieve the required OTR requirements. Achieving the required barrier performance through a multi-layer rollstock structure combined with the packaging & processing method work together to achieve an extended shelf-life of approximately 14 - 16 months for shelf-stable applesauce cups.
Additionally, opportunities to refine the material structure through the use of enhanced barrier materials and precision capabilities can enhance the overall performance of the packaging. Materials such as ICPG's XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene offer up to 80% improvement in OTR and MVTR over traditional polypropylene materials before the incorporation of EVOH. Combining our XPP materials with high barrier materials such as EVOH, can allow for structure optimization, to ensure that only the required amount of materials are used to achieve the desired shelf-life expectations, eliminating the need for over-engineering. Further control of the material structure can be accomplished through ICPG’s proprietary processes utilizing innovative technologies such as the visionX system, which allows for monitoring of individual layer thickness to ensure the exact amount of EVOH is used to satisfy barrier requirements.
Differentiating Through Cup Design
As with so many markets today, applesauce cups have transitioned through the years from multi-layer barrier white straight wall printed cups to clear multi-layer barrier radius sidewall cups, but the evolution is not going to stop there. As brands continue to battle for consumer loyalty, package differentiation is becoming the “silver bullet” in driving brand awareness.
Key requirements such as trim concentricity, maintaining consistent cup dimensions, consistent material distribution, and flat flanges are all integral to achieving optimal performance for rigid single-serve applesauce cups. To augment this, design modifications that increase the compression strength (top load/side-load) that the cup can withstand can offer opportunities for down-gauging, further optimizing the packaging, and offering opportunities for cup differentiation as a means of reinvigorating brand promotion.
On the materials side, opportunities for differentiation outside of typical stock items can provide the eye-catching aesthetic appeal to help solidify brand messaging and stand out on store shelves. ICPG's customizable capabilities not only offer advanced material innovations, but allow for further aesthetic and cosmetic enhancements such as the use of custom tints, colors and opaque materials in addition to printed registered and random printed roll stock. Through our innovative materials and additives portfolio, ICPG is poised to provide new differentiated cup concepts and designs while offering improved sustainability and material utilization for the rigid shelf-stable applesauce market.
Innovative & Sustainable Materials
As a single-use plastic product, the rigid single-serve applesauce cup market is not immune to current pressures to develop more sustainable packaging solutions. Current PP/EVOH/PP structures used in rigid single-serve applesauce packaging applications are not well sorted through curbside recycling systems, as the majority of the existing multi-layer coextruded structures are classified using Resin ID Code (RIC) #7, which signifies "Other." Not only does this hinder recycling & re-use opportunities, but poses a challenge for brand perception.
Today, with advancements in barrier material technology, ICPG is breaking new ground with performance sustainable solutions, driving development for the next generation of materials and container design for the applesauce industry. ICPG offers material structures for the rigid single-serve applesauce market developed using our XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene solutions to offer a simplified material structure, that continues to deliver on performance, while being 100% recyclable using the polypropylene RIC #5.
Interested in learning more about how XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene can advance innovation for you applesauce packaging applications? Download our Applesauce Packaging Solutions sheet today: