If you’re between the ages of 6 and 12, there is something strangely appealing about opening a tube of food and squeezing the contents into your mouth.

ConAgra’s cobranded Hershey’s chocolate pudding and Jolly Rancher fruit gels are the latest examples of children’s snacks in tube packaging.

If you’re between the ages of 6 and 12, there is something strangely appealing about opening a tube of food and squeezing the contents into your mouth.

Now marketers are capitalizing on that impulse with a rash of new products. Freeze pops and other tubular snacks have been around for years, but Minneapolis-based General Mills was the first food company to apply the packaging to a low-acid product when it introduced Go-Gurts in 1998. Go-Gurts’ success spawned immediate imitators. Stonyfield Farms, an organic and natural dairy products processor in Londonderry, N.H., introduced YoSqueeze yogurt in a tube two years ago. Now larger players are coming out with their own takes on products with nutritional value that appeals to moms in packaging that appeals to kids.

Last spring Stamford, Conn.-based Mott’s Inc. rolled out Fruit Blasters, colorful 2.4-oz. tubes of flavored applesauce packed eight to the carton. Mott’s was following the lead of a regional brand in Washington state. “While regular apple sauce is slightly grainy, the process for Fruit Blasters was modified to create a product with a very smooth consistency,” explains Mott’s spokesman Chris Curran.

ConAgra Foods went national in June with two refrigerated, single-serve snacks. A cobranded Hershey’s chocolate pudding in a 2.25-oz. single-serve tube is being produced and packaged at the firm’s Menomonee, Wis., Swiss Miss plant. Packaged eight to a box, the pudding has a 12-month refrigerated shelf life. ConAgra also is licensing Hershey Foods’ Jolly Rancher brand for similarly sized watermelon and green apple gel snacks. As with Fruit Blasters and Go-Gurts, the products are sufficiently stable to be tossed into school children’s lunchboxes.

The challenges with dairy products in tubes are two-fold: packaging film with sufficient oxygen-barrier properties must be used, and high-speed filling must be accomplished. In General Mills’ case, these obstacles were overcome with the help of packaging partners Curwood Inc., an Oshkosh, Wis., film maker that is part of Bemis Corp., and Winpak Lane Inc., a San Bernardino, Calif., maker of filling machines.

“There were a lot of new aspects to the Go-gurts product that came together at one time, and the involvement of multiple parties complicated matters,” reflects Sam Wuest, product development manager at Oshkosh, Wis.-based Curwood Inc. “It was the first application of the Winpak packaging machine and the first stick-type package of its kind, and it turned into an excellent collaborative effort.”

Curwood ultimately selected resins that produced a laminated sealant film that was compatible with the Winpak machine and could be easily opened by a child, support package graphics and meet other criteria.

For more information:

Sam Wuest, Curwood Inc., 920-303-7300, www.curwood.com
John Schaefer, Winpak Lane Inc., 909-885-0715