Food Engineering

Fresh lobster with legs

June 1, 2009


A skin pack in a microwaveable tray provides shelf appeal for packaged lobster, though the processor believes improved quality is a greater benefit. Source: East Coast Seafood Inc.


Seven days is the longest shelf life lobster meat gets, and that’s not long enough for retail distribution. So when East Coast Seafood Inc. introduced pasteurized lobster with 90-day shelf life at trade shows in Boston and Brussels, Belgium, the reaction was exceedingly positive, according to Tom Livingston, product development director at the Lynn, MA-based company.

“This is what everybody expects lobster to taste like,” says Livingston, who worked for over a year with Cryovac’s ready-meals division to develop a barrier film that could withstand processing and retain product integrity. Although code dating is based on three months of refrigerated life, sample testing is averaging 165 days “with zero bacteria,” he adds.

The 6-oz. portions are in a protective skin pack in a polypropylene tray, with a 45-degree cutaway panel overwrap to display the product. The microwaveable product debuted in May at BJ’s Wholesale Clubs under the Legal Sea Foods brand.

A mild thermal process that does not denature meat proteins and turn the meat rubbery was developed seven years ago by Paturel International, a sister company of East Coast. The lobster first was packed in a transparent plastic cup. “Up until then, it was all retorted product in tin cans,” recalls Livingston. 

Adapting the self-venting Simple Steps microwaveable platform for seafood was a goal for Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac division, “and this helped that along,” says Sean Brady, marketing director. Developing an appropriate resin formulation was complicated by the post-packaging treatment that the lobster undergoes, he adds. Because the package is air tight, Clostridium botulinum is the bacteria of concern.

Shelf presentation is markedly better than the cup, but quality improvement is the greatest benefit, Livingston believes. “If you can get the customer to pick it up, they’ll buy it again,” he says.  v

For more information:

Sean Brady, Cryovac Inc., 864-433-2000, sean.brady@sealedair.com