Italian cheesemakers using barrier packaging for shredded cheese

Italian families want to keep the rich traditions of their regional cuisine alive. And yet, like American families, they have less time than ever for shopping and meal preparation. Knowing that time-crunched consumers are seeking faster ways to prepare and serve tasty meals, MasterPack, S.p.a., Monvalle, Italy, created a new packaging solution for cheese manufacturers. This new, consumer-friendly flexible package uses the Inno-Lok® Barrier Zipper from Zip-Pak Manteno, Ill. It combines a press-to-close zipper feature and advanced barrier protection against moisture and oxygen.

"This new packaging option appeals to the modern consumer's taste for products that are conveniently dispensed and stored. It also provides the barrier protection that is essential for keeping cheese fresher, longer," explained Maria Ippolito, export mgr. of MasterPack. "This gives cheese brands a definitive edge."

Enhancing Consumer Appeal

Grana Padana cheese has been an essential part of Italian cuisine since the Middle Ages. A close cousin to Parmigiano Reggiano, it is made in large cheese wheels that are slowly aged to develop a delightfully sharp taste, firm but grainy feel, and a soft pleasing aroma. A wedge of the cheese is cut from the wheel, so that it can be shred at home with a cheese grater. The shredded cheese is then added to traditional recipes as an ingredient or sprinkled over the main course at the table.

While consumers previously needed to unwrap the solid cheese, shred it manually and store shredded cheese in a separate container, they now have a simpler option. Pre-shredded Grana Padana cheese is available in a flexible pouch that can be opened and closed many times, keeping unconsumed portions fresh.

Because Italian consumers are so selective about the quality of their food, MasterPack needed to optimize the cheese's freshness and flavor. Pre-grated cheese has been available in Italy for several years, but selective consumers often find it inferior to cheese grated at home. According to Ippolito, this is mainly due to the typical vacuum or thermo-wrapped packaging, which does not sufficiently preserve flavor and aroma.

With this consumer preference in mind, MasterPack investigated several zipper options before making a final choice.

Explained Ippolito, "Because barrier properties are essential for preserving freshness and flavor, we settled on Zip-Pak's Inno-Lok Barrier Zipper, which works in tandem with the barrier flexible packaging to effectively protect freshness."

Zip-Pak's zipper technology for barrier packaging provides optimum convenience and extended shelf life for a wide range of products that have stringent moisture or oxygen barrier requirements. By keeping moisture and oxygen away from the cheese longer, it prevents product degradation and spoilage.

Brand Benefits

Not only does the convenient resealable feature keep the cheese fresher longer, but keeping the cheese in the original package means that the brand name, logo, and package information stay in front of the consumer through extended use.

"If a cheese manufacturer is investing in a strong branding scheme to create a product that consumers will purchase again and again, they don't want the communication with the consumer to end at the point of purchase," said Ippolito.

By leveraging Zip-Pak's easy implementation methods and gas barrier technology, MasterPack was able to smoothly transition to an enhanced high-performance package. Using existing machinery from Hudson-Sharp, MasterPack applies zippers to high-barrier films using the Inno-Lok process. Because MasterPack was already using this process to create non-barrier resealable packaging, no equipment upgrades or retrofitting were needed. The resulting pre-zippered rollstock maintains the film's essential protective properties.

The zipper is applied transversely to the film so the zipper runs on the front side of the pouch. It is designed for easy implementation on most V/F/F/S machines for pillow-pack, gusseted and flat bottom bags.

Close cooperation between MasterPack and Zip-Pak quickly brought the new zippered package to market. Within a year from the initial inquiry, zippers were ordered, bag production implemented and filled bags hit supermarket shelves. To date, the new resealable package has increased sales to cheese manufacturers by 30%. n

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With its extensive experience and a commitment to packaging innovation, MasterPack S.p.a. is a leading provider of packaging solutions for customers around the world. It is based in Monvalle, Italy. For further information, or call Mariella Ippolito at +39 (0) 332 799 258.