Laura Bishop, EBLEX Marketing Manager (Quality Schemes), says it’s important to stay abreast of new technologies in packaging solutions if the meat category is to exploit fully the latest innovation in new cuts?

Laura Bishop, Marketing Manager for Quality Schemes at EBLEXOur product development work at EBLEX most recently has focused on the twin objectives of delivering better value-for-money beef and lamb products of high eating quality for consumers while maximising the value of the carcase for the benefit of everyone in the supply chain.

By focusing our attention on specific cuts with the aim of enhancing the value of the carcase, we’ve achieved significant success with the launch of five major product ranges in the past year. That success is defined by the fact that processors and retailers derive both increased revenue and greater margin from the range of cuts and products we’ve developed while consumers genuinely get a more consistent product in terms of taste and quality and, as they acknowledge, better value-for-money.

Our work, however, extends beyond the detailed knowledge of the beef and lamb carcase, our expert understanding of how to maximise carcase value; and the craft skills needed to develop the ranges of innovative cuts and products we've launched in the past year. We've made it our business to ensure we keep abreast of innovation in packaging solutions that can be best aligned to our new product ranges to ensure they meet the operational needs of retailers and foodservice operators and enhance the products’ appeal to consumers.

Whether it’s applying a bit of common sense to the packaging functionality or harnessing innovative technologies in packaging in a way that actually enhances the product, our development work on beef and lamb cuts pays close attention to the advantages the latest packaging solutions can deliver. Of course, we should never overlook the importance that good design plays in packaging: the appeal and on-shelf impact of the pack itself, for instance, can play an important role in successfully building brands, for both large and small businesses. Indeed, it’s an aspect of EBLEX’s work with many SME businesses who are keen to develop their own regional brands of Quality Standard Mark beef and lamb.

To return to the issue of latest packaging technologies, the advantages, for example, of packaging made from polyester resin and its use in thermoform and vacuum skin formats are well known in terms of extended shelf-life and enhanced food safety. The latest innovations, though, are an ideal match for some of the alternative beef cuts EBLEX has developed from lesser-used parts of the carcase. From the trade’s perspective, the packaging allows further marination in-pack that adds value to so-called cheaper cuts, such as Denver Steak (EBLEX Code: Chuck B025) which is taken from the major chuck primal.

From the consumer’s perspective, the packaging allows greater flavour, texture and moisture retention which results in improved eating quality. This, of course, is in line with the aims of the EBLEX Quality Standard Mark and complements perfectly the objective to guarantee consistent eating quality. I’m convinced that consumers will quickly appreciate further the qualities and advantages of this packaging and that it will come to be regarded as more than simply a product carrier but also as having the potential to improve the cooking process and thus enhance the whole meal occasion.

The same principle of harnessing the latest packaging solutions to enhance the product can be applied to the innovation behind EBLEX’s development of our range of mini-joints (launched only last month) where the latest development in skin packaging can really add value to the range. Cuts in The Carvery range that could benefit from skin packaging include Topside Mini Joint (EBLEX Code: Topside B006) and Lamb Rib Eye Joint (EBLEX Code: Forequarter L031). 

Reduced packaging, extended fresh shelf life, attractive presentation, excellent merchandising and display potential are well-known attributes. With thermoformed trays to give easy handling and the latest development that allows the technology to be applied efficiently and cost effectively to relatively modest volume runs, there is considerable potential for many more processors to use it across infinitely more product lines.

Simple things, too, like providing the increased amount of information consumers want on-pack while also allowing for great product visibility; easy-opening and re-sealable packaging for processed products; RFID technology for high-value items at the top end of beef and lamb cuts; QR codes on-pack that enable shoppers to access a wealth of information from cooking instructions to product traceability – these are all developments that add value throughout the supply chain and which the consumer has come to take for granted.

We devote so much attention, resource and energy to the EBLEX Quality Standard Mark scheme – an assurance scheme that addresses the issue of eating quality – that it’s only natural we’d want to ensure that the way the product is packaged takes account of appearance, shelf life, display properties, consumer appeal and information and can even aid cooking. 

At EBLEX we’ll continue to strive to deliver innovative solutions to improving the beef and lamb category - adding value to the carcase, efficiency throughout the supply chain and greater appeal for the consumer.

By keeping abreast of parallel innovation in packaging technologies and in the solutions they offer for supply chain efficiency and consumer convenience and appeal, we shall, I believe, achieve a synergy that does indeed enhance the value of the red meat category.

This article first appeared in the November issue of Meat Management . 

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