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World's first retortable carton

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TETRA Pak is set to revolutionise retorting processes by releasing new, groundbreaking technology that enables the sterilisation of food in cartons, rather than the traditional cans and glass jars.

At first glance, the square carton resembles many other Tetra Pak packages. However, the Tetra Recart (derived from ‘Retortable Carton’) is a technological breakthrough offering benefits to all, including food producers, retailers and consumers.

Besides giving food producers the chance to launch new products in an innovative way, Tetra Recart also provides several advantages including efficient and economical logistics, according to Steve Allison, business manager for Tetra Recart

“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, Allison pointed out.

The rectangle shape of the Tetra Recart saved space and money in storage. A pallet containing Tetra Recart cartons contained about 60 per cent more product compared to round packages. The saving on distribution, storage and handling costs with Tetra Recart was phenomenal.

“Retailers also appreciate Tetra Recart's square 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.

“With the ability to place more product on shelves compared to round packages, supermarkets are set to benefit greatly. The Tetra Recart can also be stacked easily, allowing for effective shelf and floor displays, unlike round containers that topple over easily,” Allison said.

Initial studies overseas had shown that consumers easily recognised and appreciated the benefits of the Tetra Recart package. The carton package was viewed as being light and compact and easy to carry. It also fitted nicely in the cupboard.

“Opening and pouring the contents is easy. The package incorporates a specially developed laser perforated opening system, so consumers need no special openers for the package,” he said.

Mothers surveyed also preferred the carton to cans because it was safer around children, with no cutting edges to worry about. The other advantage the carton had over the can was that it could be reclosed by folding the opening flaps back down.

Allison said that on the technical front, the Tetra Recart line operated at a speed of 400 packages a minute or 24,000 packages an hour, which was similar to modern canning lines, but was an unprecedented speed for carton-based packaging systems.

“Environmentally, the Tetra Recart is also a winner , being able to be recycled with traditional beverage cartons.”

Soon available to local food processors will be the Tetra Recart Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) is a fully equipped lab-scale production line mounted in a 20-foot container for easy transportation to the customer's site.

“This is a unique solution and an invaluable risk-reducing tool for both food producers and Tetra Pak. The MTU can produce packages both for testing the technique itself and to test-launch new product concepts onto the market,” Allison said.

Overseas, the Tetra Recart concept was recently awarded the widely recognised DuPont Diamond Award for innovation and potential impact in the marketplace.

The line has already been tried and tested with commercial success by Tetra Pak customers. Most recently, Tetra Recart was chosen by Europe's leading processed vegetables manufacturer, Bonduelle, for the launch of a range of vegetable products in Italy and Germany. Since Bonduelle abandoned cans and decided to package its beans in Tetra Recart, its sales have tripled in Italy alone, reaching 70 million Euros, he said.

And in the US, Hormel Chili and Stagg Chili, both leading Hormel Foods brands, will soon be available in convenient, easy-to-open Tetra Recart cartons.

“Our consumer research showed a clear preference for this new packaging concept,” said Larry Vorpahl, vice president and general manager of grocery products, Hormel Foods. “The Tetra Recart carton offers consumers a variety of advantages, including portability, easy opening and pouring, and convenient, space-saving stackability in kitchen cupboards.”

In addition, the products are preservative-free. We are pleased to be the first to offer such innovation in the category with two of our key brands, Hormel Chili and Stagg Chili,” he said.

The Tetra Recart could be used to pack wet shelf-stable products, such as chili, which contained particles of any size, like beans and rice, with a shelf life of up to 24 months.

Tetra Recart’s paperboard laminate material allowed the product in the package to be sterilized in the same manner as the traditional canning process.

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

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