Alternative to canning

Tetra Pak Marketing Pty Ltd
Monday, 06 September, 2004

Tetra Pak technology has made it possible to create a paper-based packaging material that is rugged enough to withstand the high temperatures of retorting. The Tetra Recart is composed of a six-layer laminate structure and offers manufacturers a new packaging option for prepared, particulate containing foods such as vegetables, soups, ready meals, fruit, pasta meals, soups, sauces, salsas and pet food.

Tetra Recart (derived from 'Retortable Carton') is a combined processing and carton-based packaging system for incontainer sterilisation of food. The package is optimised to work with batch retorting systems which sterilise the package and content simultaneously using steam and hot water.

Retorting is a food processing method normally used for metal and glass packaging where the food is packaged first, then heated for 20 minutes or longer at high temperature in a large retort oven to sterilise it and make it safe to eat. The product inside is usually heated to over 120°C during retorting - a temperature required to render the content commercially sterile.

Tetra Recart's paperboard laminate material allows the product in the package to be sterilised in the same manner as the traditional canning process but without a metal can or glass jar.

As the world's first retortable carton Tetra Recart can package virtually any foods currently found in food cans or jars with the added logistical benefits of being lightweight with a stackable, rectangular shape.

The production process

The Tetra filling and production line uses a well performing blend of specially developed Tetra Pak equipment and validated third-party line equipment.

All steps from loading blanks into the form and seal machine to package shaping, filling, sealing and transportation to the retort racks are performed in one smooth process. From the rack handling system, packages are automatically transported to one of the retorts where the packages are sterilised. Retort time and temperature depends on the fill product.

The production capacity of Tetra Recart is similar to that of modern canning lines. It is claimed to be able to run at speeds up to 24,000 packages per hour.

Logistical benefits

The Tetra Recart allows ambient distribution and merchandising and is lighter and easier to stack than cans or glass jars.

At the production end one pallet contains 35,000 Tetra Recart cartons ready for filling. This means that one truck delivering Tetra Recart cartons corresponds to approximately 15 trucks delivering empty cans or glass jars.

At the distribution end the rectangle shape of the Tetra Recart saves space and money in storage. A pallet containing Tetra Recart cartons contains approximately 60 per cent more product compared to round packages, creating savings on distribution, storage and handling costs.

Marketing benefits

The shelf impact and graphics capabilities of the rectangular prism shape give marketers a package suitable for maximising product differentiation in updates and new product launches.

Products packaged in the Tetra Recart can be distributed and merchandised ambient and are lighter and easier to stack than cans or glass jars.

Retailers will appreciate Tetra Recart's shape since it saves shelf space and presents an attractive 'product wall' to the consumer. The Tetra Recart is lighter than cans and is available in multipacks of 12 making it easier for store staff to pack shelves. Also, compared to round packages, more product can be placed on shelves. The Tetra Recart can also be stacked easily, allowing for effective shelf and floor displays.

Consumer benefits

The package's laser-perforated easy-open feature eliminates the need for a can opener and it presents no sharp edges - adding to consumer safety. The pack won't break or shatter if dropped and is recyclable in the same streams as traditional beverage cartons. Another advantage the carton has over the can is that folding the opening flaps back down can re-close it.

The products packed in Recart packages are preservative-free.

The Tetra Recart packaging material complies with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.

Try before you buy

The Tetra Recart Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) is a fully equipped laboratory-scale production line mounted in a 20-foot container for easy transportation to the customer's site. The MTU can produce packages both for testing the technique itself and to test-launch new product concepts onto the market.

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