Contract Packaging March/April 2010 : Page 19

PACKAGER PROFILE | SOPAKCO PACKAGING items without the need to make their own capital investment. Th e 200,000-sq-ft production facility is dedicated to the design, preparation, and packaging of heat-and-serve meals pack- aged in microwavable plastic bowls and trays, and also in fl exible retort pouches. Th e barrier-lid trays require no refrig- eration, so they can be stored in a desk or school locker until mealtime. The new facility includes a state-of-the-art research and development lab, test kitchen and pilot plant, automated batch and blending operations, volumetric fi lling and form/ fi ll/seal equipment, high-speed bowl-filling lines, high-volume retort chambers, and automated packaging lines. Quality and food safety features include electronic digi- tal inspection systems, magnetizers, in-line and end-of-line metal detectors, and on-site USDA facilities. Th e plant’s 80 staffers include food scientists, process engineers, and packaging engineers. Commenting on the new facility, SOPAK- COPresident Lonnie Thompson says, “Th ere is a tremendous amount of synergy with this expansion. SOPAKCO has more than 30 years of experience in retort pro- cessing and 60 years in co-packing, which gives us an advantage in satisfying the grow- ing demand for heat-and-serve meals. “We’re also a fi nancially strong, estab- lished company, enabling us to partner with leading consumer products compa- nies, brand owners, and retailers that want to quickly enter this growth market with confi dence and without significant capital investment. We provide a turnkey solution, from recipe formulation to food process- ing and packaging to distribution, another advantage for quick market entry.” SOPAKCO Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Perry Jowers, reports the new production facility in Mullins already has booked business with well-known national companies and is generating signifi cant interest from ma- jor food brands and private- label brands. “Companies are recognizing that consumers at all ends of the spectrum, FILLING LINE. A high-speed bowl fi ller is just one key part of SOPAKCO’s expansion at its new 200,000-sq-ft plant in Mullins, SC. from gourmet to budget, want the conve- nience of shelf-stable, prepared meals,” Jow- ers notes. “SOPAKCO has the capabilities and capacity to help companies quickly get to market with delicious, nutritious meals that refl ect the desired brand experience and price point. Th ere’s a lot of opportunity, but if you don’t get your product on the shelf, you’ll miss the boat.” Serving up nutrition One well-known brand that has used SOPAKCO’s contract processing and pack- aging services for the past two-and-a-half years is Nutrisystem. First providing retort pouches for Nutrisystem, the co-packer has recently expanded into lidded barrier trays with meals produced primarily at the new facility in Mullins. Anthony Mauceri, vice president of procurement at Nutrisystem, says the com- pany, which markets weight-loss products and programs, stipulates the nutritional guidelines. Th ese include total calories, pro- tein, and carbohydrate levels. Nutrisystem also identifi es some prohibited ingredients. Th en SOPAKCO’s research and develop- ment team formulates shelf-stable meals that Nutrisystem approves. Mauceri says he does not identify ingredi- ent suppliers, instead allowing his co-packer to source the best and most economical ingredients. Since Nutrisystem delivers its food products entirely by UPS, its supply chain requires shelf-stable, nonrefrigerated foods that meet the company’s gold stan- dard for taste, Mauceri explains. Jowers agrees that “These meals taste very good.” Having acquired experi- continued on page 20 ence with retail food products, SOPAKCO recently added a line ofmeals marketed under its PACKAGE VARIETY. Kathryn’s Kitchen entrées feature lidded trays, or bowls, and fi t inside pa- perboard sleeves featuring eight- color printing. MARCH | APRIL 2010 • CONTRACT PACKAGING • 19

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