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Expert Interview Series: Katie Zeller of Thyme for Cooking About European Cuisine, Ingredients, and Food Packaging

Katie Zeller is an American expat eating, drinking, and enjoying the good life in France. We recently chatted with Katie to learn more about the cuisines of Europe and Asia, as well as how they are packaged and sold to consumers.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to start a cooking blog?

I’ve been writing my blog, Thyme for Cooking, for over 10 years. I like to cook and I like to tell stories. The blog was the logical result. I originally started with a recipe and menu planning site, and the blog was a great way of introducing individual recipes as well as telling stories about fitting in to French life.

Could you tell us what it’s like to live in Andorra?

I loved living in Andorra – except for the traffic during August and December when the world came for shopping holidays. I walked in the mountains with a local group and played golf several times a week. The skiing is also fabulous.

Andorra is unique in that it does most things in twos or threes. There are three languages: French, Spanish, and Catalan (the official language). There are two postal systems (French and Spanish), three school systems, two co-princes, etc. Before the euro, there were two official currencies: the French franc and Spanish peseta. It’s a small country with a vibrant, active social calendar.

We left Andorra and moved to France mainly because we wanted to live on flat land. The mountains are beautiful, but not conducive to large gardens.

What ingredient, spice, or other food did you discover and fall in love with while living in Europe?

Two, actually – and they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The first is the Catalan “pa amb tomaquet” or tomato bread: country bread, toasted, rubbed with fresh garlic, then rubbed with a fresh tomato half and drizzled with olive oil.

The second is pan-seared foie gras: fresh foie gras, sliced about 1/3 of an inch thick, seared in a hot skillet for about 30 seconds per side.

Since your blog focuses on “simple” recipes, could you tell us what makes a recipe no longer be simple?

For me, a simple recipe is one with a minimum of equipment and/or easy steps. I very rarely use a food processor. A sharp knife, good skillet, and heavy casserole should allow anyone to be a great cook. And if there are too many ingredients, one can start to lose the individual flavors. Fresh ingredients simply prepared are best.

Since you grew up in the American Midwest, could you name a European dish that would be thoroughly enjoyed by your former “neighbors” in Minnesota or Wisconsin?

The dish that I am always asked to make when we have visitors from the U.S. is Cassoulet. Duck, sausages, and white beans, cooked slowly for hours… what’s not to love? Cassoulet does not fall into the “simple” food category, but I only make it once a year.

Living in Europe, what types of foods or grocery items are often found in packaging that is different from that seen in the U.S.?

When we lived in Andorra, there were very few things in cans. Most things were in glass jars, like kidney beans, roasted peppers, asparagus, etc. In general, there are fewer canned items on the supermarket shelves here, and “boxed” food (i.e., Hamburger Helper-type foods) are unheard of.

In addition to looking for fresh foods, is it also smart to seek out products with eco-friendly packaging?

When we first moved here, there were no ready-made salad dressings, but that has changed in recent years. Fruits and vegetables are rarely packaged; everyone bags their own in biodegradable bags. And we provide our own shopping bags. I haven’t seen a plastic or paper bag at a checkout in a supermarket in over 10 years.

How do you want to expand your culinary horizons in the future?

I’ve been really enjoying learning about the foods from northern Africa, in particular Morocco and Tunisia. I love the spices and the cooking methods. We recently spent a week in Marrakesh and attended a cooking class. I was inspired!

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The History, Status, and Future of Flexible Food Packaging

Flexible food packaging technology is exploding with new manufacturing ideas and better results for consumers. Sustainability, cost, appearance and convenience goals are merging like never before. And everyone in the chain from beginning to end is experiencing more manageable expenses, better quality and performance, and less waste.

It’s a global effort that’s paying off. Now, flexible packaging provides more than just a lightweight product container. It offers beautiful branding options, better product freshness, improved consumer convenience, and less debris hauled to local landfills. What’s in store for the future? Smart materials that respond to the environment.

Flexible Packaging Took Root Centuries Ago

The historical, evolutionary curve of flexible packaging looks a bit like this:

  • Treated tree bark
  • Paper bags
  • Semi-flexible cardboard
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Plastics

Lightweight, flexible packaging materials didn’t emerge with the invention of plastic kitchen bags or even paper grocery sacks. In 1300s China, the bark of the mulberry tree provided flexible food packaging, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension’s A Brief History of Packaging.

Paper making technology advanced flexible packaging options. And in the mid-1800s, paper bag manufacturing took off first in England, then in the U.S. with the first machine-made bags.

Innovation Drives Flexible Packaging Today

Today’s flexible packaging technology supports ecological, branding and sustainability efforts:

  • Better flexographic printing seamlessly combines packaging and graphics
  • Smart packaging design gives food manufacturers a contemporary edge
  • High SKU lines adapt faster to new products
  • Pouch packaging takes products from shelf or freezer to table
  • Less packaging produces less waste

According to Food Processing magazine, flexible packaging is a clear leader that’s just beginning to tap into its possibilities. Advances in flexographic printing for retort pouches, developed in Switzerland, circumvent the expense of rotogravure printing, with virtually indistinguishable results.

Design flexibility allows manufacturers to experiment with packaging structure, as well. Consumers can pinch, pull, tear, shake and eat from the same container. Heated containers now cool faster while keeping food warm. For high SKU brands, new product additions and existing changes are seamless.

Edible containers, such as whey film, get mixed reviews, according to research by Erin Hoppe of the University of Wisconsin-Stout. But they could one day eliminate packaging waste altogether. One primary concern is hygiene. But there is promise. Watch as Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, co-founder and co-CEO of Skipping Rocks Lab, demonstrates “Ooho” the edible water bottle:

Tomorrow’s Choices are Healthier, Stronger and Better Looking

What might happen in tomorrow’s flexible packaging?

  • Smaller, thinner, lighter packaging with better labeling
  • “Intelligent” flexible materials that respond to conditions inside or outside the package
  • Polymers become immune to microbes
  • Antimicrobial films control microorganisms in food
  • Smart, conductive, light-emitting packaging produces advertisements on the package
  • Higher biodegradability and compostability

Hope explains that “intelligent” packaging can already use sensors, indicators, and processors to detect changes in and around packaging and react to them. In the future, that technology is expected to grow. Polymers that control microorganisms will further reduce food waste. And with a higher level of biodegradability, manufacturers can double down on reducing waste.

According to Beverage Daily, the trends are moving to a less-is-more philosophy. And that means lighter weight, slimmer, flexible packaging that’s highly recyclable/biodegradable/compostable.

Flexible packaging offers flexible solutions for manufacturers, food processors and ultimately consumers. It keeps costs low with better-looking containers that out-perform traditional packaging on all fronts.

With cutting-edge industry innovation, the future will hold smarter products that work hard not just to contain, but also enhance the product while eliminating bulk and waste.

The USDA Is Working On A New Type Of Sustainable Food Packaging

USDA researchers have devised a different way to package things like meat, bread, and cheese. Instead of using plastic, they’ve developed an edible, biodegradable packaging film made of casein, a milk protein, that can be wrapped around food to prevent spoilage.

The United States produces a lot of milk, but milk consumption has been on the decline for years. So the USDA has been working to find a way to take that excess milk, usually stored in powder form, and create something usable with it. Even though the USDA has been working to create food packaging with milk products for decades; it’s only in the last few years that researchers cracked the code for making casein-based films competitive with plastic-films.

The biggest problem researchers faced with casein-based films is that casein is extremely sensitive to water . This is a serious problem for a product that is supposed to keep food sealed and dry. Adding pectin to the casein mixture created a film that, while still more sensitive to moisture than plastic, did not immediately dissolve in water or areas with humidity. The casein-based film was actually 250 times more effective at blocking oxygen than plastic. That keeps food from oxidizing and going stale, and also slows down the growth of bacteria.

There are still some issues associated with the casein-based packaging. Due to it being moisture sensitive  and because it is edible, the packaging cannot be used alone on store shelves, yet. In order to keep the packaging both stale and sanitary, the packaging would need to be used in conjunction with a secondary layer of packaging. The casein-film could be used to make single-serving packaging for items like a soup or coffee, that, when dropped into hot water, would dissolve completely.

The casein-based film could be sprayed directly onto food, or directly onto packaging, to create a moisture resistant barrier or add nutrients. With the right industry partners, consumers could see this packaging on the shelves in as little as a year.

To read the full article, click here:
https://thinkprogress.org/usda-edible-food-packaging-9caa16d7d4fd#.mikofvkay

Source: Think Progress

Responsible food packaging could connect consumers to the environment

Research reveals that 80% U.S. food shoppers agree that reducing food waste is as important as reducing packaging waste. According to Mintel’s 2016 US Food Packaging Report 52% of consumers indicate they would prefer to buy foods with minimal or even no packaging to reduce waste.

81% of consumers say they would choose resealable packaging over non-resealable packaging to extend the shelf life of food. 54% would pay more for packaging with added features, such as being resealable or portion controlled. 30% indicated they often reuse food packaging for other purposes. However, recycling of food packaging is far from a universal behavior, as only 42% consumers report recycling most of the food packaging they use.

A lack of clear communication on labels may be a contributor to the relatively low recycling rate, 25% of consumers said it’s not always clear which food packaging is recyclable. Only 13% of consumers make an effort to avoid foods in packaging that cannot be recycled.

“Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers,” says John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovative packaging and product messaging.”

However, in 2015, only 21% of food product launches in the U.S. included on package claims regarding environmentally friendly packaging.

“The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also as a way to work toward reversing the growing food waste trend through conscious consumption,” says Owen.

Click here to read the article:
http://www.packagingdigest.com/food-packaging/responsible-food-packaging-could-connect-consumers-to-the-environment-2016-09-01

Source: Packaging Digest

Food packagers prefer recyclable over compostable materials

The latest finding from Packaging Digest’s Sustainable Packaging Study is that recycling is preferred over compostable packaging. In the survey 57% of brand owners and packaging suppliers sited recyclability as the most important environmental claim. Recyclability has the advantage of already having a large infrastructure in place that can collect, sort and sell the recycled materials.

Commercial composting facilities, which are necessary to create composted materials that can be reused, are less available and often require a drive to offload the materials for composting. This additional use of gas negates some of the green benefits of composting. Since only 20% of the total respondents polled selected compostable as important to their environmental claims, compostable might not offer a good return on investment.

To read the full article, go to
http://www.plasticstoday.com/food-packagers-prefer-recyclable-over-compostable-materials/35071181924370

Source: Plastics Today

Smart Pail & EZ-Flo on display at the Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting

CDF Corporation, a global company that specializes in the manufacture and sale of high quality pail liners, drum liners, intermediate bulk container liners, bag in box and flexible packaging, will display packaging solutions at the Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting in May.

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The Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting will be held May 1st to the 3rd at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in Savannah, Georgia. The technical meeting includes varied technical sessions that provide know-how and solutions for dressings, sauces and other condiment product manufacturers and suppliers.

 

Representing CDF will be Product Manager Joe Wanner. CDF’s newest products, the Smart Pail™ and the EZ-Flo™, will be on exhibit at the ADS Information Open House on Monday, May 2nd. The Smart Pail, a plastic pail replacement system, was developed to offer a more sustainable and cost effective system for transporting semi-viscous, solids and some liquids traditionally shipped in plastic pails. The Smart Pail is a semi-rigid, flexible vacuum-formed plastic liner with a unique wide-mouth laminated peel-reseal lidding film structure offering tamper evidence, easy open-close, excellent oxygen barrier and efficient disposal. The Smart Pail is inserted into a specifically designed corrugated box and stacked 48 units per 40” x 48” pallet for transportation.

 

The EZ-Flo Dispensing System is an environment-friendly dispensing alternative to traditional squeeze, pump and spray bottles. The EZ-Flo’s innovative dispensing system uses patent pending technology to dispense products of various viscosities without the assistance of gravity. The system is cost effective, reducing waste, time and labor, while improving overall productivity.

 

The Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS) represents manufacturers of salad dressing, mayonnaise and condiment sauces and suppliers of raw materials, packaging and equipment to this segment of the food industry. Its purpose is to serve the best interests of industry members, its customers, and consumers of its products. http://www.dressings-sauces.org/

Why Sustainable Packaging is a must have for Restaurant Success

While the farm-to-table trend continues to grow, consumers are becoming more aware of what goes into the food they purchase and consume. This translates into more demand on restaurants to provide not only transparency in the nutrition label but also the sustainability of their packaging for food products. In a recent survey performed by Asia Pulp & Paper, American consumers want sustainable food packaging labeling to be clear and concise in reflecting the materials they use.

Previously, consumers may have viewed sustainable packaging labels as a nice bit of information. However, sustainability has shifted to a priority for Americans, restaurants, and the entire food industry. Meeting consumer demands is important for business and consumer loyalty. In another survey that focused more on consumer loyalty and likelihood to recommend a brand, 51% of Americans are more likely to recommend a brand if it includes environmental and sustainability related information. Based on consumer attitudes, paired with business, regulatory and environmental pressures have pressed world well-known brands to make the move to sustainable packaging.

Companies are making the transition to sustainable packaging options; recognizing that the need for transparency across global supply chains and operations and manufacturing processes. The industry predicts that many companies will make the transition for social responsibility and to ensure brand loyalty. Companies are now prioritizing the integration of environmental practices.

To read the entire article please visit: http://www.fastcasual.com/articles/why-sustainable-packaging-is-a-must-have-for-restaurant-success/

Source: FastCasual

CDF’s Flexible Packaging Division Passes Food Safety Audit

CDF Corporation, a leading manufacturer of drum, pail, intermediate bulk container and bag in box liners and flexible packaging, has passed a food safety audit for one of North America’s largest consumer packaged food and beverage companies.

An auditor from Quality Assured Solutions was contracted to perform a food safety audit on CDF’s Flexible Packaging division. The food safety audit evaluates many aspects of compliance with respect to food safety, sanitary working conditions, employee training and the proper handling of food products and packaging. CDF’s Flexible Packaging division passed the food safety audit with a score of 88.1 out of 100. With this score, CDF has been approved to supply IBC liners to this highly regarded global food processor.

During the 16 hour audit the Flexible Packaging division showed that many food safety items were already in place, there is an active GMP program in place and there is a working copy of a HACCP plan. The audit was based on the customer’s supplier expectation manual. The manual is the standard and the supplier is assessed against the standard.

“We have been working on many of the GSFI requirements as we get closer to our ultimate goal of SQF Level 2 Certification in 2016. It was reassuring to have a well-respected third party auditor verify we are on the right track,” said Tom McCarthy, Flexible Packaging General Manager.

The auditing company, Quality Assured Solutions, offers world class consulting to the food, beverage and confectionary industries on a domestic and international scope.food

Smart Pail & EZ-Flo on exhibit at the Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting

CDF Corporation, a global company that specializes in the manufacture and sale of high quality drum, pail, intermediate bulk container and bag in box liners and flexible packaging, will display flexible packaging solutions at the Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting in April.

The Association of Dressings & Sauces Technical Meeting will be held April 27th to the 29th at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, California. The technical meeting includes varied technical sessions that provide know-how and solutions for dressings, sauces and other condiment product manufacturers and suppliers.

Representing CDF will be Joe Wanner, Drum & Pail Product Manager and Tom McCarthy, Flexible Packaging General Manager. CDF’s newest products, the Smart Pail™ and the EZ-Flo™, will be on display at the ADS Information Open House on April 28th. The Smart Pail, a plastic pail replacement system, was developed to offer a more sustainable and cost effective system for transporting semi-viscous, solids and some liquids traditionally shipped in plastic pails. The Smart Pail is a semi-rigid, flexible vacuum-formed plastic liner with a unique wide-mouth laminated peel-reseal lidding film structure offering tamper evidence, easy open-close, excellent oxygen barrier and efficient disposal.

The EZ-Flo Dispensing System is an environment-friendly dispensing alternative to traditional squeeze, pump and spray bottles. The EZ-Flo’s innovative dispensing system uses patent pending technology to dispense products of various viscosities without the assistance of gravity. The system is cost effective, reducing waste, time and labor, while improving overall productivity.

The Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS) represents manufacturers of salad dressing, mayonnaise and condiment sauces and suppliers of raw materials, packaging and equipment to this segment of the food industry. Its purpose is to serve the best interests of industry members, its customers, and consumers of its products through a governing body of a 16-member Board of Directors and eight working committees. http://www.dressings-sauces.org/