Fear of failure is a major barrier to innovation, and the fear factor increases when both the product and the package are new and different. To overcome innovation inertia, Tetra Pak Inc. is taking a do-it-yourself approach to risk assessment for Tetra Wedge Aseptic (TWA), the microwaveable carton that substitutes silicon oxide for aluminum in the barrier laminate.

Alfredo sauce is one of three products in microwaveable aseptic pouches being tested at retail locations by Tetra Pak, which is building the business case for its latest packaging innovation. Source: Tetra Pak Inc.

TWA debuted in Finland two years ago ("Aseptic container wedges open door to microwave," Food Engineering, May 2005) and has spread to other countries in Europe. The first modified TBA/19 filler with an ultrasonic transversal sealer arrived stateside a year ago, but food companies and copackers are skittish about making a capital commitment. To create demand, Tetra Pak is filling Chef Creations sauces at its Denton, TX, pilot plant in partnership with grocery chains such as Kroger, Winn-Dixie and Safeway and Orlando, FL-based Culinary Concepts Inc. and to make the business case.

"The Wedge will be big; it won't be big in the first six months," observes Jeff Kellar, marketing director for Vernon Hills, IL-based Tetra Pak. "We're building the opportunity and the demand by generating store-level data that any major food manufacturer can look at and say, ‘This makes sense.' "

Hollandaise sauce and other single-serve products in the Chef Creations line were placed on grocers' shelves at various price points to provide hard sales data over 60 to 90 days. "At $2 a pack, (the TWA filler) is a $50 million business," Kellar notes, assuming it reaches full capacity. Based on sales results, food companies will know if market demand will match machine capacity.

Culinary Concepts partnered with Tetra Pak in 2003 for the first foodservice application of the Tetra Brik. Also known as Chef Creations, products such as crème brulee and hollandaise sauce were filled by Schroeder Co. in the Twin Cities. "I wish we had the copackers to keep it in stock," says Hal Valdes, president of Culinary Concepts. He says the company may build its own facility in Wisconsin to keep up with demand.

For more information:
Jeff Kellar, Tetra Pak Inc., 847-955-6680, jeff.kellar@tetrapak.com