To address the needs of today's "time-starved" consumers looking for convenience at virtually every turn, Breakaway Foods (Columbus, OH) has introduced a first-of-its-kind food product. The company is offering foods ranging from scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon to macaroni and cheese with chili in portable packaging that requires no eating utensils no forks, knives or spoons are needed. The unique, microwaveable package is a "self-serving" push-up cylinder directly out of which the consumer eats.
Dubbed "IncrEdibles," the patent-pending convenience food products offer on-the-go consumers an enjoyable meal, according to company executives who unveiled the product in late October in New York. The products, which currently include six SKUs of three varieties of scrambled eggs and three of macaroni and cheese, are packaged in proprietary paperboard cylinders. The products are sold frozen to maximize freshness and flavor, and are microwaveable in about one minute once thawed or about two minutes if microwaved frozen. The sealed spiral-wound cylinder acts as its own "mini-oven" inside the microwave.
Self-Serving Eating Utensil
The cylinder, which measures 1.5-in in diameter and just under 5.5-in in length, is sealed at the top with a paper seal. The user punctures a hole into the seal when ready to microwave. This allows steam to vent while cooking. Once the product is cooked, the cylinder becomes a self-serving eating utensil when a round hollow plastic stick, included with the product, is inserted onto the cylinder bottom, which consists of a plastic disc. Consumers simply push the cylinder upward at about an inch at a time using the stick to advance the food, which they then eat out of the top of the cylinder. Serving sizes are 4.5-oz.
"The IncrEdibles product creates a new classification of convenience foods, which I call ‘comfort foods,'" says Dr. John L. Stanton, professor of Food Marketing, Erivan K. Haub School of Business, at Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia). "There really hasn't been a way to deliver certain kinds of food portably before this product."
Breakaway Foods says IncrEdibles have been developed in response to a growing trend. Hand-held foods are the No. 1 growth category in the U.S. frozen and refrigerated food industry today, according to New York-based Kalorama Information (July 1998). Within the hand-held category, frozen products account for more than 90% of current sales.
What makes IncrEdibles different from other hand-held foods, the company emphasizes, is that with the push-up cylinder packaging IncrEdibles are able to offer users 100% of product content. Most other foods in this category rely on bread or dough as their carrier system. "When we say 4.5-oz of macaroni and cheese, that's what you get, not 2.5 to 3.5-oz of a bread or dough encasement with a mere 1 to 2-oz of filling," notes Robert E. Berman, president of Breakaway Foods and IncrEdibles inventor. Berman points out that other hand-held foods can contain up to 60% or more outer dough. There is no dough in IncrEdibles. In essence, the paperboard and plastic delivery system, which is recyclable, is disposed of, not consumed.
With a product that offers such convenience, one has to wonder about the taste and quality of the food. However Nick Kosanovich, CEO of Breakaway Foods, says that once the company developed the cylindrical delivery system, it focused on achieving superb taste and nutritional value. "The rotini pasta is made fresh from the finest semolina flour, real eggs and cheese, combined with other fine ingredients," he says. Moreover, for the Macaroni & Cheese product, for example, IncrEdibles serve up only 160 calories and 4.5-g of fat per serving. The products are also lower in sodium than most other hand-held foods, the company says.
Dr. Stanton points out the potential benefit for foodservice operations, kiosks and concession businesses, where most foods are handled by servers. "Because each individual IncrEdibles serving cylinder is sealed, there's no direct handling of the food before consumption. The implications for improved health and labor savings are enormous," he says.
The packaging lends itself to virtually every food distribution channel. Initial rollout of the product began in November with distribution available from New Jersey to central Pennsylvania to northern Virginia in select foodservice outlets and convenience stores. Additionally, the IncrEdibles product line is being tested at various Amoco Split Second convenient stores in the Philadelphia market. Subsequent availability will be in supermarkets, club stores, vending, carts/kiosks and other channels.
Available in single-serve and multi-pack sizes, IncrEdibles' suggested retail price ranges from $1.49 to $1.99 per serving.
Breakaway Foods would not reveal the packaging suppliers.
For more information: Breakaway Foods, LLC, Tel: 800-567-9565.
Edited by Bill Noone