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On a plate ... from Lawson Mardon.

On a plate.....from Lawson Mardon

The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the demand for convenience foods, ready made meals and, especially, microwave products. The growth of domestic microwaves is expected to continue during the 1990's and beyond. Well over 40 percent of UK households now possess microwave ovens, and similar growth patterns are being recorded in Germany, France and Italy. As this speedy method of convenience cooking rapidly expands, Lawson Mardon Group companies are well placed to assist manufacturers to meet market needs by providing both innovative technology and well tried and tested packaging products.

Lawson Mardon Group is keeping close to all developments in microwave food technology, especially in the markets for plastics microwaveable food containers. In its continuing effort to be at the forefront of its field, the Lawson Mardon Group is currently negotiating new Japanese technology agreements for these markets. It is also evaluating market research to determine the opportunities within the UK and North America.

Already being considered for a variety of food products, following recent demonstrations to major British retail chains, is an exciting microwaveable packaging concept from Lawson Mardon Flexible.

The material involved, known as a susceptor, is not uncommon but Lawson Mardon's breakthrough is innovative. A susceptor is based on controlled optical density metallised polyester film which will encourage the fast growth of microwave oven ownership by providing a solution to present problems affecting products like pies, pasties and pizza.

Conventional susceptors provide the same degree of heat to all parts of a pastry product, resulting in overheated edges or a soggy uncooked centre.

Lawson Mardon Flexible's answer, highlighted at the Interpack exhibition in Dusseldorf in June, is a material process that conducts microwave heat in specific areas, or zones, to ensure that products are evenly cooked, crisped and browned.

The innovation uses metallised polyester film, which is then partly demetallised on specialist equipment to leave heat-generating elements in the vacuum deposited aluminium areas that remain.

Location and thickness of these heat-conducting sectors is tailored for different microwaveable food products. The final, converted "susceptor-carrying" substrates create small mini ovens inside attractively printed board cartons that can be supplied by sister company LMG Mardon.

Alternatively, the new material may serve as a flexible package in its own right. Here, the film is laminated with paper on both sides, and the inner ply becomes an additional product-protection barrier. The outer paper ply can be printed in the normal way.

Lawson Mardon Flexible has started marketing dialogue with pizza producers, and is particularly optimistic about prospects for products like pasta, Cornish pasties, sausage rolls and shepherd's pie - all of which require controlled microwave heating for prime presentation and palatability.

Believing that consumer tastes are becoming more international, they are also hopeful about new markets which might follow the example of popcorn. It isn't yet established in Britain but microwaveable popcorn represents huge business in the USA, where the market is around two billion packaged units annually.

Having recognised the increased demand for microwave packaging, Lawson Mardon Flexible has also identified the important need for even cooking, crisping and browning of food products, and officially launched its new "susceptor" development at a private Lawson Mardon Group exhibition held recently in Watford.

As development continues on this novel heat-conduction packaging technique, Lawson Mardon Flexible will meet the requirements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, and the US Food and Drug Administration. In the meantime, Bristol University is assisting progress by providing a matrix of probable user and consumer requisites.

Lawson Mardon Flexible's proficiency in this demetallised film development has followed the company's successful work on all-plastics microwaveable retortable peelable laminate.

Fidding materials for shelf-stable foods. These allow the achievement of shelf lives of around a year at ambient temperatures, combined with quick and convenient heating without the need to remove the protective peelable lid before placing the tray in the microwave.

In particular, the company supplies a major British retail chain with microwaveable peelable lids for two premium quality food product lines. It is the only packaging supplier to offer this specific structure, which has been in commercial use for a year.

Lawson Mardon Flexible has also recently invested heavily in equipment to meet the changing demands of the customer with several new presses, including a narrow width gravure press designed for shorter print runs. This new machine can provide quick changeovers and will be especially useful for product promotions, which have also been a growth area over the past year.

Lawson Mardon Flexible has extensive experience in the snack food packaging markets, which, together with their substantial recent investment in the very latest equipment, ensures that they will maintain their position as the leading convertor in these markets.

Another example of technological developments by the group comes from LMG Smith Brothers, the UK's leading supplier of materials for modified atmosphere packaging and packaging to the snack food and confectionery industries. It has recently launched FRESHCAP ET, extending their Freshcap range of CAP base web and lidding materials to increase customer choice.

Based on Amorphous Polyester (APET), FRESHCAPET offers an alternative to conventional PVC/polyethylene. The co-extruded material, which combines APET with polyethylene, is produced in a dedicated plant at LMG Smith Brothers' Cumbrian site. The company also boasts Freshcap MW, an award-winning microwave pack suitable for defrosting, reheating or cooking fresh, chilled and frozen foods. Freshcap MW is a dedicated microwave pack, which is cool to the touch when removed from the microwave even when the food inside is piping hot.

LMG Smith Brothers is also notable for its process flexo printing which can be used on a wide variety of substrates.

LMG Smith Brothers is also notable for its process flexo printing which can be used on a wide variety of substrates.

LHG Superior Packaging is noted for the production of specialised laminates and single ply printed packaging for the frozen food and ready meals market. It uses both gravure and flexographic printing technologies on typical film structures of polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene laminates.

A recent example of work in this field is the successful Ham and mushroom, Tomato and cheese and Spicy Pepperoni pizza slice ranges from Green Isle Foods of Dublin. They are packaged in six colour gravure illustrated laminates consisting of 25 micron polypropylene laminated to 38 micron white polyethylene.

The eye-catching packs offer good protection for the product which is market leader in the pizza slice sector of the Irish market. This range of products is also set to become brand leader in Northern Ireland.

Lawson Mardon is the group's longest established company and the UK's largest single production unit for folding cartons.

A key element in the development of microwave food technology has been the ability to brown food, through pack technology, during cooking in the oven - an example of this is the successful Micro Chips pack from LMG Mardon, produced for McCain Foods. Growth in receptor technology lies behind the success of this popular single service product. McCain Foods had earlier established the oven-chip market and launched the microwaveable version in 1986, LMG Mardon supplying a top-load carton for both snacks and main meals. Close co-operation between the two companies has now led to the development and release into the market of a fully integrated carton construction - the receptor patch is supplied and glued into the carton, simplifying packaging.

The company also produces Kookpac trays for the microwave and convenience food markets; these are already well established and successful in North America.

Kookpac trays are formed from flat blanks and positioned into a chain conveyor passing a number of filling stations. Lids are applied and sealed in position by heat sealing machinery.

The package not only eliminates the customary outer carton but offers saving in transportation, since the cartons and lids can be supplied flat.

ll six surfaces of Kookpac are printable, thereby providing plenty of room for graphics, branding, cooking instructions and nutritional information. The pack can be used for either frozen or chilled food and can be taken straight from the fridge or freezer and placed in the oven or microwave. The contents do not have to be decanted thus saving time and fuss - a convenient form of packaging for truly convenience foods, such as Mr Chang's Spare Ribs in barbecue sauce from Chic-O-Roll.

LMG Mardon also provides traditional packaging for a whole range of convenience foods and ready made meals including the successful Heinz Weight Watchers, Birds Eye Menu Master and Microwaveable Tendergrill from UB Ross Young. LMG Mardon's other food markets include cakes, biscuits, drinks, dairy dry foods and other grocery products.

A safer and more flexible plastics carton tear strip for cling film, foil and paper products is available, thanks to development by Lawson Mardon company, LHG Paso.

PAKASTRIP offers the rigidity of the traditional metal combined with increased flexibility and safety. Its development follows recognition by Pazo Packaging of the need among consumers for a safe and effective alternative to the metal strip.

The benefits of plastics to the consumer, compared with metal, are that it does not cut the skin as easily as a metal strip nor produce dangerous slivers of metal. Pakastrip also does not rust and is more attractive.

Furthermore, Pakastrip offers advantages for the carton manufacturer since it is flexible and does not distort the pack or reduce packing line efficiency. The strip is also very versatile since it can be placed at different positions on different shaped cartons.

Lawson Mardon Plastics is one of Britain's leading innovators and suppliers of tamper-evident plastics closures. With the threat of "consumer terrorism" now being faced by all leading manufacturers, there has been an increased demand from retailers for more secure and sophisticated packaging systems and this has led to a number of important developments in tamper-evident closure systems by the company. One such development is a tamper-evident system for the widely used 28 mm Jigger cap, which is used with the standard range of HD/PVC bottles.

Another such recent development is the 45 mm and 70 mm wadded and wadless tamper-evident cap for use on PET jars.

These closures have been developed by LMP, in conjunction with its sister company LMG Fibrenyle, for use on PET jars.

Aimed at both the food and non food markets, the company has given top priority to this critical area of product integrity. LMP now supplies a whole range of high quality tamper-evident closures for a wide variety of different packages, ranging from agrochemicals to mineral waters and hot-fill foods.

It also produces polypropylene snack containers and injection moulded pot noodle pots for the convenience and snack food markets.

LMG Thermoplastics has recently installed a new sheet line dedicated to PET sheet, the output of which is being rapidly adopted on the Continent for a wide range of food and other thermoformed packaging. The UK is surprisingly slow in taking up on the advantages of this high clarity, tough low temperature-resistant material with its potential for downgauging, although a number of special applications are starting to be developed.

Together with other Lawson Mardon products, this adds to the unrivalled range of packaging and technology designed to meet the needs of today's manufacturers and consumers.

PHOTO : Typical susceptor-carrying substrates

PHOTO : Freshcap ET material in use

PHOTO : Pizza slice packaging

PHOTO : Latest bacon packs from Danepak

PHOTO : Typical convenience food packaging

PHOTO : Pakastrip in use for cling film
COPYRIGHT 1990 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:Starch in microwave cookery.
Next Article:Loma meets the needs of the meat industry.

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