US food manufacturer Blue Star Food Products is the first user of what it is believed may be the world's first ever retortable, recloseable laminate pouch.

It has selected Pyramid Flexible Packaging’s new 1lb “Zip’n Store” pouch incorporating recloseable zipper for six varieties of its handpicked crabmeat. Formed from a four-ply PET/foil laminate, the pouches feature a cast polypropylene Fresh Lock zipper from Presto Products. They have gone on sale in US supermarkets, “club stores” and via foodservice distributors in the last few weeks.

Pyramid, the California-based flexible packaging manufacturer that brought Heinz UK into flexible retort pouches for its tuna products, and Presto, took two years to perfect a retortable, recloseable pack which could withstand retorting’s high temperatures. Pyramid can now offer the pouches gravure printed “to photorealistic quality” in several pre-made formats – including side seal and stand-up, with die-cut handles and in contoured shapes. As well as “being easier for consumers to handle than cans” and “taking up less storage and transportation space”, Pyramid claims the pouches “eliminate the metallic taste that often migrates into food packaged in cans” and maintain food’s natural flavour, texture and nutritional value. The contents are pasteurised, rather than sterilised, and the packs thus require refrigeration to keep the food fresh.

“The laminate will withstand processing temperatures of 275 degs F,” says Dean Hoss, president, Pyramid Flexible Packaging. “The sturdy Zip’n Store retort package can be microwaved and used as a boil-in-the-bag for cooking and reheating foods. When the idea of developing a recloseable retort zipper first surfaced in 1999, industry feedback was that ‘it could never be done’. Consequently we sought a global zipper producer to partner with to prove the doubters wrong – Presto became that partner.”

“Consumers, chefs and kitchen workers can zip a pouch open and zip it closed again, putting what they don’t want back in refrigeration for future use,” adds Blue Star vice-president, marketing and sales Steve Harmell.

Pyramid claims its retortable pouches also keep products fresher than other packaging formats. Blue Star’s Harmell adds: “This technology lets us capitalise on our product being closer to fresh-picked crabmeat versus the old industry standard – canned pasteurised crabmeat. We are currently putting ‘use by’ dates on the pouches one year from production.”