A ready meal can be either some “cold” dish or a meal portion that has been partially or fully cooked and can be quickly re-heated by the consumer without any specific food preparation (“cold” and “hot” kitchen respectively).
Cold kitchen mainly concerns various types of sandwiches and ready-to-eat salads. They are not meant to be reheated but to be packed in a way that preserves freshness and enhances presentation. In fresh-cut salads transparent APET or PS trays with a separate or hinged lid are used. PP trays are also utilized which however lack in transparency. Sandwiches on the other hand are being packed in clear BOPP films with an attractive print or kraft coated at a flowpack machine. Depending on the incredients, MAP techniques or permeable perforated films are applied.
In “hot kitchen”, besides the case of short consumption (ie. in food delivery), ready meals must be packed in a way that prolongs shelf life, enhances product image but also allows for reheat or even baking in the package itself.
Shelf life extension is usually achieved either by shock freezing either by hot filling. MAP techniques further extend meal’s shelf life. Concerning packaging materials, PP trays are used for microwaves and CPET trays for baking in the oven as well as for MAP due to high barrier properties. Lidding films with the same properties are used to seal these trays.
Finally, an increasing trend is this of cooking bags, usually for marinated meat or fish-based meals. Baking in a bag retains flavor and aroma whereas protects the oven and the room from odors and “fuss”.
Kapelis packaging has accrued valuable experience in ready meal techniques and can offer a wide range of advanced materials in combination with the relevant packaging machines.