Cutting-edge technologies continue to provide grocery retailers and their supplier partners with new tools to make their food safety programs even better.

And in today’s climate of increased health concerns and labor instability, that’s more important than ever.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air relies on a “total solution approach” to help grocery retailers and their supplier partners maintain the highest food safety standards, said Fabio Thomazelli, the company’s executive director for global marketing food proteins.

That approach includes supplying its customers with state-of-the-art equipment and integration for its food packaging lines, best in class materials that were tailored for just those lines, and services that assure the perfect functioning of those systems.

On the materials side, Thomazelli said, Sealed Air has a diverse case-ready solutions portfolio that offers a full menu of packages for products to go directly from food processers to retailers with high shelf lives, minimum human contact, and the robustness to withstand transportation. 

In addition, Sealed Air has a range of protective packaging solutions that ensures that products are kept intact and at the right temperature through transit, including e-commerce. 

“Sealed Air has been supporting the food industry for more than 75 years, and we’ve learned that what truly differentiates us is being a total solution provider,” Thomazelli said. “By supplying materials, including primary (food contact) and secondary (distribution/protective) packaging, automation, production auditing, systems for quality control, a full spectrum of services (line design, package design, line operation, customer maintenance), and by having true focus on the retailer’s needs and requirements, we can engineer solutions to meet such requirements, with a continuous innovation pipeline.”  

Food safety requirements, Thomazelli said, are becoming more demanding all the time. For instance, based on Sealed Air internal marketing research, prior to COVID, 48% of industry processors had an interest in automation or advanced processes in their plants. Because of the pandemic, that number has shot up to 85%.

That shows, he said, the impact that advanced technologies have on ensuring food safety and quality product in the case.

“Our automation and system integration portfolio mitigated COVID-related shortages, enabling better social distancing, and reducing human contact with products.”

Sealed Air recently launched a new SEE Automation brand vertical rotary vacuum chamber system, called AutoVac 86. For many users, it serves as the heart of their production line, Thomazelli said, enabling the operator to have full visibility and control of the performance of the entire packaging line from a single panel, reducing handling, keeping operators at a safe distance from each other and significantly decreasing the risk of production errors.

“It has a simple operation, demanding little training, and it helps bring predictability back to the processor even in times of uncertainty,” he said.

Other examples of Sealed Air’s “total solution approach” includes its case-ready solutions portfolio, with products such as the CRYOVAC brand Darfresh vacuum skin packaging for trays. In addition to boasting an environmentally friendly “zero scrap” profile, this solution provides the means for food items to go directly from the processor to the retail shelves with longer shelf lives and minimum handling.

Solutions like these, Thomazelli said, eliminate the need for further processing (i.e. slicing and repacking) in stores, making the grocery store a safer environment. In addition, Sealed Air’s Smart Packaging technology allows the printing of unique IDs on packages, giving materials full traceability and consequently enhanced quality control.    

Sealed Air has several launches planned for 2022, Thomazelli said.

At the top of the list is a new pad-less tray, the CRYOVAC brand HydroLoq barrier tray, which reduces the amount of waste going to landfills by removing the pad while retaining the product’s purge. It also has a more appealing appearance, and it gives products a potentially longer shelf-life.

Also on tap for Sealed Air this year is another innovation driven by the pandemic-related surge in demand for automation, especially as it relates to quality control. The new CRYOVAC brand AutoID product vision system verifies that packages have the right vacuum level automatically and identifies quality defects such as leaks, minimizing the potential of human errors in quality control and reducing the incidence of them in the distribution chain.

“This new system completes the production line, enabling touchless automation,” Thomazelli said. “Creating and maintaining a competitive advantage relies on innovative products, operational efficiencies, and dependable suppliers. Our focus is to help our customers secure a market-leading position by offering differentiated, sustainable, packaging materials, including digital printing and smart features, best-in-class equipment, and high-quality services to ensure their business is ready to meet the rigorous market demands.”