Food Engineering

Purge pads double as anti-theft devices

April 1, 2004
With more supermarket chains cracking down on shoplifting and installing anti-theft hardware, Cryovac Food Packaging is introducing meat soaker pads with concealed pockets to hold electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags.

Disposable electronic article surveilance tags can be slipped into specially designed soaker pads for meat and poultry to provide anti-theft protection for food retailers. Source: Cryovac Food Packaging.

The Duncan, S.C., division of Sealed Air Corp. began kicking the EAS tires six years ago, according to Richard Douglas, marketing director of rigid packaging & absorbents, but few supermarkets were outfitted with EAS deactivation devices at cash registers and EAS pedestals at the exits. The situation is rapidly changing, however: half of Kroger's 2,500-plus stores now have EAS infrastructure in place, and the rest will install the necessary hardware in the near future. Publix, Giant Eagle and other grocers are following suit, and mass merchandisers such as BJ's Wholesale Club and Wal-Mart also are EAS-equipped.

To accommodate EAS, Cryovac is modifying Dri-Loc soaker pads to accept Ultra-Max EAS tags from Sensormatic, Boca Raton, Fla. The acousto-magnetic tags, which are microwave-safe, are sheathed in a plastic housing and inserted in the pad's pocket. Verification tests concluded the tags are effective despite the cold, moist environment created by meat purge.

"The retailer has the flexibility to use this on high-end meats and use identical pads without the tags on lower-cost cuts," Douglas says. "Anything with a $5 to $10 (cash register) ring is a good candidate" for tagging. The psychological deterrent provided by selective tagging has reduced shoplifting losses by up to 47 percent at stores, he adds.

Sensormatic sells Ultra-Max tags for 3.5 to 5 cents each, depending on volume, and the technology has been incorporated in Ultra Zap soaker pads from PaperPak USA since 1999. Best known for its Attends incontinence pads, San Dimas, Calif.-based PaperPak supplies the EAS-equipped pads to Food Lion supermarkets.

Douglas declined to say what premium Cryovac would charge for Dri-Loc pads equipped with Ultra-Max. "The increased cost is very small as a percent of the ring value of the cuts it protects," he says. Because retailers are the only beneficiaries of the technology, he expects sales to be limited to grocers, not processors of meat, poultry and fish.

For more information:
Richard Douglas, Cryovac Food Packaging, 864-433-2000

Mark Ericson, Sensormatic, 561-912-6000