In its 3rd Edition of The State of the Contract Packaging Industry report, released in August 2014, the Contract Packaging Association (CPA) revealed that the industry had more than doubled in growth since 2008. According to the report, the food and beverage category—with estimated market value of $9.5 billion—was the most prolific segment. The segment also showed promise moving forward, with a 17 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) projected from 2013 through 2018.
So what is a co-packer?
By definition, a contract packer, or co-packer, is a company that manufactures and packages foods or similar products for their clients.
This definition may seem simple, but the process of co-packing products that ultimately make it to retail delis and foodservice kitchens is far more complex. It is a service more and more food companies are turning to in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.
As the Specialty Food Association (SFA) notes, the benefits of using a co-packer are many.
“Using a qualified contract packer will enable you to devote your time to management and marketing, while eliminating the enormous expense and responsibility of operating a production facility,” information from SFA says.
Modern Deli Mobile: What are some of the biggest challenges now confronting your segment of the industry?
Modern Deli Mobile’s Q & A with Eddy Packing Company, Inc. illustrates one shining example.
Modern Deli Mobile: What are some of the most important things companies should consider when choosing a co-packer?
Hans-Peter Ryholt: They should always look for a BRC-approved* facility, and make sure the company has well developed and operating HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) programs in place. At Eddy Packing, we also go through a detailed health inspection, where a team comes in and inspects not only the production floor but also the grounds, the bathrooms, and the test kitchen. We want to be meet or beat the industry standards for food safety.
Working with someone who wants to develop a partnership and take ownership is also important. For example, say a prospective client who wants a proprietary item comes to us and says, “I have an idea for a product but can’t develop it.” We have an R&D director who is a certified chef, so we can work together with the client on product innovations
Communication and turn-around time are important, too, as well as being able to produce a quality product in appropriate packaging.
Hans-Peter Ryholt: Meeting the requirements for non-GMOs is hard in the co-packing business, especially if the customer we’re co-packing for sends us a proprietary spice bag. In order to put non-GMO on the label, we have to know what’s in that spice mix and get documentation from the spice company that all the ingredients are non-GMO.
The federal government has decided it is our responsibility to educate the consumer, so now more and more information has to go on the label. For example, there are naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites in spices. We don’t add artificial ones, but the label has to say “naturally occurring.” Also, new guidelines that took effect January 1, 2016 say the NFP (Nutritional Fact Panel) must be in a vertical format. All those things reduce the amount of romance copy or graphics we can include on the label. We have had clients who designed their own label, which they thought was "Oh so pretty!” But it wasn’t in the correct format, so we had to send it back so they could
We can create a label for anybody, but it has to go through our label compliance food scientist, who keeps up to date with USDA regulatory requirements. We are a USDA inspected facility with full-time
Overall our biggest challenge is meeting our clients’ demands while staying within our specialty areas in order to excel.
Bringing value added protein products to retail and foodservice clients
By Kathleen Furore
To find out how co-packers are helping food companies navigate the complex product development process, Modern Deli Mobile reached out to Yoakum, Texas-headquartered Eddy Packing Company, a premier, value added processor of beef, pork and poultry products for major retailers and foodservice distributors. Founded in October 1953 by E.R. (Eddy) Mayrant, the company has maintained its commitment to producing consistent quality products that are "Made with Family Pride” for almost 63 years. Today, Eddy Packing Company employs some 500 people and operates an approximately 300,000-square-foot production facility, making it one of the most modern meat processing plants in the southwest.
Modern Deli Mobile: What role do slicers play in helping you meet your co-packing goals?
Hans-Peter Ryholt: We purchased a Weber Model 504 Whole Muscle Slicer specifically for our HMR product. The whole idea of purchasing the Weber machine was to do those thin-sliced meats—we could not make those products without Weber’s slicing technology. As far as we are concerned, Weber slicers provide the highest level of sanitation design in the industry. Our Weber slicer has provided us the ability to meet our clients’ exacting needs and demands.
*BRC (British Retail Consortium) Global Standards is a leading safety and quality certification program, which is used by over 23,000 certificated suppliers in 123 countries, with certification issued through a worldwide network of accredited certification bodies. BRC Global Standards are now often a fundamental requirement of leading retailers.
Hans-Peter Ryholt, President & CEO of Eddy Packing Company, discussed how evolving consumer demands and new labeling requirements are creating challenges as well as opportunities for co-packers today.
Eddy offers a complete line of fully cooked, marinated, cured, fresh and frozen meat products.
Modern Deli Mobile: Tell me a little bit about your company and the types of co-packing projects you've been working on.
Hans-Peter Ryholt: We’re a protein further processing facility, so we do four primary proteins—beef, pork, chicken and turkey. We offer everything from raw marinated to fully cooked smoked products. Our forte is all natural hardwood smoked proteins along with marinated poultry, fajitas, and turkey legs. For the deli, we do thin-sliced meats for Home Meal Replacement (HMR) kits. For example, we offer 16-ounce packages of fully cooked product, packaged in black trays that customers can just pop in the microwave, heat and eat. We also do beef, pork and poultry [in the trays] along with a variety of smoked products, primarily brisket and ribs as well as pulled pork, beef and chicken.
Modern Deli Mobile: Have you identified any trends that are impacting your business?
Hans-Peter Ryholt: All-natural, clean labels, and products with no GMOs, are in high demand right now. When you talk about clean labels, it means no nitrates and no nitrites. We’re taking dyes out, taking caramel coloring out. Consumers also want products with low or no sodium, and without phosphates. We have the capability to create products that meet all of those demands.