JAPAN - In a deal with DaiNippon Printing Co Ltd (DNP), Swedish packaging company, Micvac AB now has a range of five microwaveable ready meal packaging containers in Tokyo supermarkets and convenience stores.
Marketed under the brand name Oissina! (Tasty!), from the Japanese food brand Fujico, the product line includes two pasta meals, paella and the spicy rice based jambalaya.
Produced in Japan, the Swedish company’s business arrangement with DNP sees Micvac supplying a complete system, equipment, filling and micro-tunnels to DNP which then handles all marketing and distribution in Japan and Korea.
In October 2012, following a period of test marketing in a number of stores in Japan, the Fujico brand rolled out a full product launch across 1,000 Family Mart convenience stores and between 200-300 supermarkets in the Tokyo region.
Speaking to PackWebasia.com during Tokyo Pack 2012, Johan Zetterberg, Micvac’s Vice President Business Development, explained, “The Micvac system provides both quality food packaging with the added benefit of an extended shelf-life.
“What they mainly have in Japan are the classic bento-boxes with a one day shelf life and a range of retort pouches. However, the Micvac pack provides a 30-day shelf life in the retailer’s chiller compartment where the temperature is typically 10°C. In Europe, where refrigeration is in the region of 6-8°C, shelf life can be extended to between 33-35 days.”
Ease of use
For the busy consumer, ease of use is a major advantage - they just have to put the tray into the microwave – there is no need to pierce the pack - and set the timing to about 2½ minutes.
When the food is cooked, the container fills with steam, the pack balloons and the valve opens by itself and vibrates with a loud whistling sound alerting the customer that their meal is ready.
Zetterberg said, “When cooking from frozen, microwave ovens are generally hopeless. Getting the timing right is a real problem for consumers.
“Sometimes they take the meal out of the oven and it is still frozen! So then they put it back in and it burns. Or they get the timing right, but usually most frozen microwave meals tend to be overcooked and lose much of their flavour.
“With the Micvac, consumers don’t have to wait for the microwave to ‘ping’ – it’s the package that pings as the self venting valve alerts them that their meal is perfectly cooked.”
Micro-tunnel seals in flavour
For the food manufacturer, such as Fujico, the benefits of the system are that it is a complete continuous in-line process: an in-pack microwave pasteurisation process that cooks the product actually in the pack in a matter of minutes.
“For the customer, the advantage of our cook-in-the-pack process, is that we can achieve al dente pasta and vegetables that retain their colour and flavour, giving a high quality microwave product with all of the vitamins and nutrients sealed in. This would be impossible using a retort process that takes 1-2 hours and cooks out most of the nutritional value,” Zetterberg explained.
In the case of the Oisena pasta meals, the containers enter the production belt and are filled in a continuous line with dry pasta, raw vegetables, raw marinated chicken (or other meat) and sauce complete with spices etc. The container is then sealed and passed through a continuously moving micro-tunnel where the food is cooked and pasteurised inside the pack.
Once the cooking process is finished, a flap-valve on the top of the pack closes by itself trapping some steam inside. This then condenses and the oxygen is expelled while the natural nutrients in the food are retained and trapped inside the pack – the whole process takes between six to eight minutes.
Vitamins hate oxygen, and the pack removes oxygen inside the micro-tunnel, explained Zetterberg. “Since it is a hard vacuum, we haven’t been able to detect any oxygen inside the pack.”
Micvac currently has customers with production sites in Europe and Australia.