• Vacupack says it can provide short production runs or ongoing production of millions of parts.
    Vacupack says it can provide short production runs or ongoing production of millions of parts.

General Mills Australia and New Zealand makes Latina Fresh, one of Australasia’s bestselling brands of fresh pasta and sauces, as well as the Old El Paso range, the Betty Crocker baking mix products and the Nature Valley snacks brand.

The Latina products, which include fresh-filled and plain pastas as well as tomato-based or cream-based sauces, have been in production since the 1980s, making General Mills one of the original ready meal makers.

As the ready meal market grows, so does competition in the space, which is in turn increasing the need for product and packaging innovation. With this in mind, Vacupack, a manufacturer of plastic packaging for the FMCG, retail and medical markets, recently approached General Mills with a suggestion.

Vacupack, whose clients include Leggos, Coles and Lean Cuisine, says product innovation and shelf presence are among the primary drivers in the booming ready meal market.

With this in mind, the packaging company undertook a design review of Latina’s existing packaging off its own bat, according to Vacupack’s general manager, Deane Barnes.

“We undertook a proactive design review for Latina and have just had a massive win with our packaging concept,” Barnes says. “We changed the tray and introduced a clear tray that no one was using. General Mills were so pleased with the result they rolled it out across numerous products.”

The tray stands out from the classic black tray that is usually used in the category, and it also stands out on the shelf and provides greater transparency for consumers.

The clear tray also enabled General Mills to redesign its inner packaging, consisting of the inner tray and cardboard sleeves, to bring colour to its foil trays and to extend its branding through to the tray.

“If you go into Coles and Woolworths you’ll see a very clear distinction between their brand and other brands,” Barnes says.

Diren Gokal, procurement manager at General Mills, says the company now has a packaging solution that not only meets all the food safety regulations, but also stands out on shelf.

“Too often the bigger packaging companies will try and shoehorn a solution to fit their standard offering rather than really listen to what we need,” Gokal says.

It also helps that Vacupack is an Australian supplier, says Gokal. “To be cost effective, imported packaging often needs to be delivered in full container loads. This is often enough stock for up to two years, so if requirements change, this stock will need to written off,” he says.

“On the other side of the coin, if an opportunistic promotion is run and packaging stocks are depleted faster than expected, stock will need to be airfreighted at great expense to help cover the gap.”

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