New package design incorporating an induction seal yields extended flavorful shelf-life and dramatic sales growth.
No one knows the importance of preserving oyster freshness better than the Minterbrook Oyster Company of Gig Harbor, Washington. They've delivered quality oyster products to market since 1932.
Since 1954 the company has been owned and operated by the Wiksten family. Their passion for product quality and "over the top" customer service makes their business a success.
Recent efforts to extend product freshness and improve packaging style supplied another one-two punch to the Wikstens' already successful game plan.
Traditional oyster packaging included glass containers with metal caps and a heat-shrunk plastic sleeve. While this package was functional, the glass was subject to breakage, the heat-shrunk sleeve was unattractive and cumbersome to apply. And the cap could rust if displayed for sale in an iced display unit.
Marketing Manager Emily Khan, recalls the goals of the package redesign, "We wanted to ensure our packaging was environmentally friendly and we also wanted to address our customers' concerns regarding product freshness and safety. We had an ever growing demand for tamper-evident packaging that was cost effective and enhanced the look of our product."
Minterbrook relied on a packaging team including Premier Plastics and Innovative Molding to help create a fresh new package design. The company was able to take advantage of PET's lightweight and shatter resistant properties. This translates into easier container handling and reduced freight costs.
"We were primarily looking for a tamper evident seal, but the additional benefit of leak prevention was a very welcome plus."-Erika Winsten, Minterbrook Oysters
An interesting innovation is the idea to color code the 58 mm and 70 mm closures. Customers can now quickly identify the size of the oysters in the package by the color of the cap. Minterbrook also packages for institutional customers in 32 oz. PVC containers and 64 oz. plastic tubs.
To complete the package ,Minterbrook replaced the problematic heat-shrunk sleeve. This was a difficult challenge because many sealing techniques are ineffective in a wet environment. On top of that, oyster juice causes most adhesives to fail.
General Manager Erika Wiksten explains, "Premier Plastics recommended that we talk to Enercon about their induction sealing equipment. Enercon worked long and hard with us to find an induction seal that would do the job."
"We were primarily looking for a tamper evident seal, but the additional benefit of leak prevention was a very welcome plus. We got that and more - the seal also provided extended shelf life by protecting freshness both through the reduced heat added to the product during sealing and because the seal forms an excellent oxygen barrier during shipment, storage and shelf-time."
"Enercon provided us with a significant cost saving, too. The Compak Convertible has a much smaller footprint than our old heat shrink process, thereby saving us considerable floor space. It also automated our sealing process. The net result is a smoother running, more productive line with more efficient utilization of our employees on our packaging line."
The biggest bonus was yet to come. The market acceptance of Minterbrook's newly packaged product is outstanding. "The combination of the new containers and closures with the benefits inherent to an induction seal proved to be a real winner," says Erika. "Within two months of our market introduction of the new package we had signed on more than 300 new outlets."
"All in all this was quite a successful project for us. We achieved the cost savings that we were looking for, improved our plant safety by eliminating the glass jars, and built our consumers' confidence with a quality package to support ourquality product."
Originally appeared in: eNews: Induction Sealing Technology 2nd Quarter 2001