Form and Function
Mexican foods supplier gains extra competitive edge with unique flexo printing process for thermoformed cheese packaging
Accounting for about a 60-percent share of the U.S. market for ethnic foods, Mexican food a hotly competitive market where effective product differentiation makes a critical difference at the point-of-sale.
Until recently, though, there has been very little in the way of strong visual cues to help shoppers choose between the different types of packaged queso fresco, white Mexican cheese traditionally made form raw cow milk or combination of cow and goat milk.
While there are many variations of this cheese available, depending on the region, they all share across-the-board commonality of being white in color, whereby typically being packaged in transparent plastic packaging makes many of the products look the same on the store-shelf.
Trying to break out of that overwhelmingly white mold, Norcross, Ga.-based Olé Mexican Foods Inc. recently consulted with their former film supplier about printing on the thermoformed package containing its premium line of queso fresco cheeses.
Upon assessing what would be involved, the company politely declined, citing formidable technical challenges.
Undaunted, Olé Mexican Foods reached out to flexible packaging experts at the Cryovac division of Sealed Air Corporation in Charlotte, N.C., whose graphics and packaging experts swiftly sprang into action to make it happen.
Printing on plastic that will be thermoformed must occur prior to forming, so the graphic design must account for the distortion caused by the molding process.
The path to getting it right can be tedious, time-consuming and expensive, but the tight collaboration between Sealed Air and the Moreno family, the owners of Olé Foods, allowed project trials to flow smoothly, and resulted in proper sizing and placement of the artwork on the profile of the queso fresco packaging.
As one of most popular and widely used Mexican food items, queso fresco presents a unique challenge for brands that want to differentiate themselves.
Queso fresco is typically sold in round, puck-shaped packages with brand information printed on the top and bottom only.
They are also often stacked on top of each other in the retail dairy case, limiting shoppers to a side view and resulting in a “sea of white” unbranded packages.
Olé Mexican Foods was determined to make their product stand out and concluded that printing on the profile of the thermoformed package was the answer.
To make it all happen, Sealed Air’s printing and graphic experts utilized their company’s patent-pending Formed Profile Printing process for web printing applications, a revolutionary technology that enables graphics to be printed on a package without distortion and allowing for greater packaging surface utilization.
According to Cryovac, the superior utilization of package surface area allows for increased graphic footprint and improved brand/packaging call-out placement.
Moreover, it allows for additional branding placement options to help ensure package stands out on shelf— eliminates graphic distortion on all content, and allowing for the product barcodes to be placed on side and/or bottom of the thermoformed packaging to increase package scannability.
The proprietary Formed Profile Printing flexographic printing process has no limitations when it comes to color, according to Cryovac, and it can use either raster or vector graphics, including barcodes, with the size of artwork limited only by the shape and depth of the package.
Able to print on any rollstock press, the process works best on straight sidewall packaging such as cylindrical puck and rectangular/cube shapes, according to Cryovac, but new geometrical shapes could be developed with additional development and lead time.
Working with Sealed Air allowed Olé Mexican Foods to develop a thermoformed package solution that balances cost and performance, as well as provide clear, readable graphics on a thermoformed profile—allowing Olé Foods’ queso fresco to become the first Hispanic cheese product in the dairy case aisles to let consumers see the brand without having to pick it up.
On top of a visually pleasing package with graphics that are easy to read at a distance, Olé’s product achieved immediate brand recognition that no other rival cheese brand has.
Olé has applied the new packaging to two different brands and a total of eight SKUs (stock-keeping units), resulting in a 16-percent sales increase representing US$1.5 million.
After seeing the tremendous value of the queso fresco solution, Olé is currently consulting with Sealed Air to solve more challenges and deliver industry-changing innovations.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the visibility and recognition the new packaging has given us in the marketplace,” said Blake Johnson, vice-president at Olé Foods.
“Our product now has the differentiation that none of our competitors has, says Johnson. “If you take a photo of the Hispanic cheese section, you’ll see a sea of white, with our product being the only one that stands out.”
“With the Formed Profile Printing web technology that allowing for greater utilization of the entire package surface area, our brand will always be visible on the shelf, no matter how it is merchandised.”