An inside look at SeaWell seafood trays, optimized for shelf-life extension
Premium packaging solution provider Aptar Food and Beverage’s line of SeaWell Protective Packaging Systems has a simple, overarching aim: to enable U.S. foodservice distributors to sell safer seafood over longer periods of time.
The potential impact the SeaWell line is expected to have on foodservice distributors in the United States is huge, according to the team behind the concept.
The tray system, which comes in a dark blue finish and a variety of sizes, is capable of extending the shelf life of fresh seafood by 50 percent or more in many cases, and is also able to enhance the shelf life of frozen seafood products, Aptar said. Integrated absorbent technology incorporated into the wells at the bottom of the trays plays a large part in keeping seafood fresh for longer, with shelf-life extended by 12 to 14 days, the company said.
By prolonging shelf-life, SeaWell Protective Packaging Systems offer seafood distributors in the foodservice sector more freedom to incorporate and experiment with seafood, particularly shellfish, said Derek Riley, the business development manager for SeaWell at Aptar.
“Seafood’s short shelf-life limits the reach of [seafood] distributors. By encouraging longer shelf-life through the inhibition of dangerous microbes, they can sell further,” Riley told SeafoodSource.
The creation of the SeaWell trays was inspired by a similar system established for fruits and vegetables, the Fresh-R-Pax solution, Riley said.
“There’s a difference in the technology in the tray. This in an evolution of the Fresh-R-Pax tray, our vegetable tray,” he said. “We don’t want to seek and destroy moisture – we do want to contain it. We don’t want to allow it to recirculate around the food.”
Tom Gautreaux, the executive vice president of sales for SeaWell at Aptar, recalled collaborating with a team including Riley and Aptar Research and Development Scientist Michael Johnston to see if the Fresh-R-Pax approach could transfer over to seafood.
“I’m with the company almost 20 years, and I managed processing plants in fruits and vegetables for 25 years before coming here, so that was my background and my comfort zone. A lot my customers were friends of mine who owned and managed plants around the world. Then, when Derek came on board, he says, ‘You know, what every chef is looking for is a scallop that’s tacky,’” Gautreaux said, defining "tacky" as firm and a bit sticky.
A former chef, Riley was well-aware of the processing potential that a proper seafood packaging tray could have in the foodservice realm.
“I’m a former chef, and I played with a lot of scallops, transitioned into seafood sales, and understood that there are processing opportunities within that industry for improvement,” he said.
After their initial consultation, Gautreaux said he and Riley got “Johnston involved and we were able to prove that when you take the fluid away from products like scallops and lobster meat, you extend the shelf-life – the same principle that works so well with fruits and vegetables.”
The SeaWell trays are able to create an atmosphere that promotes longevity in the seafood product, as if it were still alive, Riley said.
“Our goal is to enable [distributors] to sell safer food longer, and we achieve that by recreating the optimal environment to thrive as if it’s still alive,” he said.
The trays come in a range of foodservice-friendly, case-to-cook sizes, including 1/4 Steam Trays with 2.5-pound capacity and 1/2 Steam Trays, with three-, five-, and seven-pound capacity.
“These dimensions are mirrored after hotel pans, so it’s a foodservice-friendly tray. They can take it from the case and put it on the line, peel the lid off and you’re ready for action,” Riley said.
Aptar also works closely with its clients to customize the trays and pouches to fit their seafood product needs, according to Johnston.
“We’re very specific with each of our customers – we like to test their products, at their time. Every product is different, so we like to test them in house and see how they work and see how we can extend its [shelf-life] for them,” Johnston said. “You can customize what’s in it – the permeability of the lidding film, its makeup, what we put in it, how much we put in it, all that good stuff."
The SeaWell Protective Packaging Systems were first introduced at the 2018 Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, by company Maxwell Chase, which has since come under the Aptar Food and Beverage banner. The product was on display once again at this year's expo as well.
“The first-of-its-kind solution promotes freshness, increases visual appeal, and absorbs odors and expands geographic markets for seafood processors,” Aptar summarized its products in its expo marketing.