While cheese may be one of the oldest known processed foods, Arthur Schuman, a New Jersey-based cheese importer and exporter, recently saw an opportunity to add value to an often commoditized product category. Recognizing growing demand among U.S. consumers for gourmet cheese, Arthur Schuman capitalized on this shift with a novel product design and unique packaging format that could transform the everyday consumer into a “cheese connoisseur.”
Cheese for foodservice and ingredient manufacturing
Nearly two-thirds of Arthur Schuman’s cheeses are distributed for use in foodservice operations or food ingredient manufacturing. According to Melissa Shore, marketing director for Arthur Schuman, “Most consumers have probably eaten our cheese at some point without recognizing it.”
Arthur Schuman’s remaining output includes block and pre-packaged cheeses distributed for sale at high-end retailers and club stores. While such an approach proved profitable, Arthur Schuman also saw opportunity to create a cheese product that could be marketed as both high-end and convenient.
“In Europe, it’s common to see a cheese board featuring three or four smaller offerings at parties and fine dining establishments,” said Shore. “We wanted to offer a product that would replicate this presentation and enable consumers to explore different tastes without purchasing individual blocks of cheese.”
In 2011, Arthur Schuman began bringing its vision to life. The final product would be made available under the company’s Cello brand, and feature a cutting board and three small cheese samples closed tightly to preserve freshness and keep all items in place. The processor turned to longtime partner Sealed Air – who had supplied rollstock film and barrier bags for several of the company’s products – to facilitate the design.
A team approach to designing vacuum-seal cheese packaging
During their initial discussions, Arthur Schuman’s product experts and Sealed Air’s packaging design experts addressed several potential complications. While each board would reflect a cheese category, such as region of origin or appropriate wine pairing, each sample within these categories features unique textures and flavors. As a result, the samples must remain separate to maintain their unique properties. Also critical to preserving each cheese’s identity would be a package capable of maximizing freshness for extended consumer purchasing windows.
“Although most North American processors use bags or rollstock material to package cheese, the nature of the board Arthur Schuman envisioned made applying such a traditional format nearly impossible,” said Joan Lawrence-Rhoads, sales representative for Sealed Air. “Although an unconventional approach, Cre8, our internal packaging design team, recommended applying a vacuum seal over the board to keep the cheeses fresh while adding visual appeal.”
Sealed Air’s Darfresh vacuum packaging technology forms a smooth, tight-fitting “second skin” to keep products and flavors intact. The film also would preserve the color, flavor and integrity of the cheeses, providing the board with a premium look for enhanced merchandising.
Easy-to-open cheese packaging
For Arthur Schuman, delivering convenience to consumers included managing needs for outside tools during every step between purchase and consumption.
To minimize injury risks and prevent puncturing the cheese samples themselves, the board package featured an easy-open tab, granting consumers access to contents through a simple pull rather than sharp knives and utensils. In a more unconventional innovation, Sealed Air also modified the package to fulfill Arthur Schuman’s intent to include a serving tool as part of the final product.
“Offering consumers everything they need to be a ‘cheese connoisseur’ includes having the proper tools to serve and enjoy in one convenient location,” said Shore. “Including a serving tool in the package not only gives our board an extra differentiating edge, but allows consumers to use the product for picnics, house parties and a variety of other occasions.”
Sealed Air’s Darfresh packaging allows high-quality cheese to remain fresh longer
After experimenting with several board configurations, the Darfresh-wrapped Cello brand cheese board was released commercially in 2013. Immediately, the board’s unique format captured the attention of retailers and customers alike.
“Implementing Sealed Air’s Darfresh packaging has enabled us to offer a portable, high-quality product that remains fresh longer,” said Shore. “We’re currently exploring new avenues to expand the board’s design and components and incorporate new cheese pairings. With reliable packaging in place, the possibilities are endless for our team to build this product line further.”
For Sealed Air, beyond accommodating its partner’s convenience and brand expansion goals, developing the cheese board reinforced the importance of creative thinking and strategic trial and error to offer something truly innovative.
“By applying a packaging format rarely thought of for cheese in this region, we were able to put a new spin on one of the world’s oldest consumer products,” said Lawrence-Rhoads. “As cheese continues to trend towards a more gourmet audience and presentation, we look forward to continuing to innovate our packaging materials to help our partners deliver a fresh, creative product to their customers.”