Fresh Packaging Trends: Metropolitan Market ‘Meats’ Its (Packaging) Match

In the wake of Seattle’s citywide ban on #6 polystyrene foam trays at grocery stores and foodservice outlets, which went into effect July 1, Metropolitan Market and other area retailers have responded by offering meat tray packaging made from corn-based compostable products. Seattle’s ordinance, incidentally, requires that all single-use food packages be either compostable or recyclable.

“This is a revolutionary step to cut down on landfill waste, and we’re delighted to be the first supermarket we know of worldwide to adopt the system,” Brad Halverson, Metropolitan Market’s VP of marketing, was quoted as saying in local reports. “Our Seattle customers will now be able to redirect an estimated 1 million meat trays per year — about five 53-foot trailers full — into compost.”

Given the parity pricing with conventional petroleum-based trays, Metropolitan Market would have moved to introduce the PLA (polylactic acid) counterpart sooner, according to Halverson. But now that supply has met up with demand, the innovative, six-store, Seattle-based grocer plans to launch its EarthChoice brand trays shortly in its stores outside of Seattle as well.

Compostable tray options have available to retailers for the past few years from such packaging leaders as Duncan, S.C.-based Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac division, whose NatureTRAY has been used by retailers within — and beyond — the Seattle market since April 2009, and which currently comes in brown, to signal to Seattle consumers that it’s compostable.

Billing itself as the first foam tray in the United States created with NatureWorks PLA polymers, Cryovac’s NatureTRAY made its market debut way back in 2007. Made entirely from annually renewable plant materials, the eco-friendly tray can be used for in-store packaging of beef, pork, poultry and fish, as well as produce and dry goods.

What’s more, NatureTRAY can also be used on any standard automated in-store wrapping equipment in supermarkets, and is available in a range of sizes and in an all-natural unpigmented white color.

In keeping with consumer demand for sustainable packaging, Richard Douglas, marketing director for Cryovac Food Packaging’s rigid packaging and absorbents unit, said the company’s partnership with NatureWorks “has enabled us to create a tray for supermarkets made entirely from an annually renewable resource.”

Trays for processor customers are also currently under development, noted Douglas.

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