The Zip&Valve pouch from Mondi Consumer Bags was nominated for the innovation trophy at the CFIA 2011 in the category ‘Emballages & Conditionnements’. Mondi’s latest development for creative cooking in the microwave was successfully presented at the packaging fair in Rennes and was ranked among the top three innovations within a competition of 16 award entries.

The Zip&Valve pouch is a retortable stand-up pouch for cooking food in the microwave and was one of the product highlights at the fair ‘Carrefour des Fournisseurs de l’Industrie Agroalimentaire’ (CFIA). “This nomination is a great recognition for our effort that we put in the continuous development of new packaging innovations,” says Bernhard Mumelter, managing director of the Consumer Bags R&D Centre in Korneuburg.

The new pouch concept enables end-consumers to not only prepare their meals faster but also gives the opportunity to season their rice or soups individually the same way as in traditional cooking. Freshly prepared, individually flavoured and healthy meals are ready in only a few minutes time – giving end-consumers precious spare time in the busy modern life.

The ready meals market has steadily grown in the past years and reached an incredible market value of €27.7bn in Western Europe in 2007. Convenience is thus one of the major innovation drivers in food packaging and the origin for the product development by Mondi – a retortable stand-up pouch for cooking dry food, vegetables, soups or sauces in the microwave. The Zip&Valve stand-up pouch offers an attractive combination of properties: a long shelf life and reclosability, without loss of vitamins and flavour. Thanks to the reduced retort time for a slim pouch, in which the necessary temperature is reached gently and fast, vitamins and minerals are retained. These features have lead to an increased demand for stand-up pouches for convenience food and to the development of innovative packaging solutions such as the Zip&Valve pouch by Mondi Consumer Bags.

The Zip&Valve concept

The principle of the latest innovation in the field of convenience is astonishingly easy: simply add fluid (eg. water or milk) to the food product packed in the Zip&Valve stand-up pouch, flavour as desired and close the zipper of the pouch. Then place the pouch in the microwave and depending on the product inside, a fresh made nutritious meal is ready in only a few minutes time.

“The Zip&Valve concept is based on a patented valve design, which consists of a special welding of the male zipper stripe to the inner wall of the stand-up pouch,” Bernhard Mumelter explains. The consistent overpressure can be predefined and adjusted according to customer needs by altering the number and size of steam valves on the pouch.

“The end-consumer only needs to open the zipper, add the necessary fluid and place the pouch in the microwave. Compared to traditional cooking the preparation of a meal is less time-consuming as no pre-heating of water is required and the actual cooking process is a lot faster,” Stefan Gutheil, managing director, Mondi Consumer Bags adds.

Creative and convenient cooking

One of the major advantages of the new pouch concept is that it can easily be opened; flavours and fluid can be added to finally reclose the pouch again – ready to be cooked. The end-consumer can add seasoning and spices as desired, giving the cook the possibility to refine the meal to his or her liking. This leads us to the next important benefit – in the same way as flavour can be added, content can also be taken out of the pouch to be divided into individual portions for later consumption. In this way, the advantages of traditional cooking are brought to the faster and more convenient way of cooking in the microwave.

Popcorn revolution

The Zip&Valve pouch not only allows for creative cooking but also for refining snacks such as popcorn. Microwaveable popcorn is not a new application, as many will now state. With the innovative new pouch concept the popcorn can now easily be made sweet, salty or even spicy – just to the end-consumers liking. Moreover, thanks to the valves and the zipper, the opening of the fresh made popcorn pouch is far easier and safer due to the fact that the steam has already evaporated through the valves. For popcorn producers, the pouch offers attractive differentiation and presentation at the point of sale compared to traditional microwave popcorn packaging.

Stand-up pouches appeal with sleek outlines, premium printing and the option of transparent windows, allowing the consumer to see to product inside the pouch, which adds a special touch to the preparation of popcorn. Instead of requiring two layers of packaging – the primary packaging for the microwave and the printed secondary packaging for better display and stacking – the popcorn pouch can be placed easily in the store shelf whilst at the same time being more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly as fewer raw materials and subsequently energy is required.

Easy handling

The Zip&Valve pouch also addresses an important topic for end-consumers – the handling of the hot pouch and its content. Thanks to the new steam concept the pouch remains closed during the cooking process and can be removed out of the microwave safely whilst avoiding any risk of burning. The zipper allows a swift and easy opening without spillage and offers additionally the feature of re-closing.

Optimal protection and environment-friendly

The laminates used for Mondi Consumer Bags pouches have excellent barrier properties and ensure delicate food is kept safe from oxygen, moisture and light. The Zip&Valve pouch is made of a PET/CPP construction with a PP zipper, enabling retort applications with longer shelf-life. Thanks to the lightweight packaging, less energy and raw materials are used in production and transportation resulting in reduced emissions and waste.

The Zip&Valve stand-up pouch is used for a wide range of food types, including dry products such as rice, soups, popcorn and cereals, as well as sauces and fresh food like vegetables.