Building on the popularity of ramen, Pearson Foods Corp. has created a new convenience meal concept. The new Fresh Ramen line features grab ‘n go bowls filled with fresh-cut vegetables and fresh ramen noodles with a variety of savory broth seasonings. Only one other element was needed to fully support the new brand: a distinctive, upscale and sustainable package.
“To literally show consumers how much better Fresh Ramen is than center-of-store brands, we needed a different kind of packaging than the usual paperboard and opaque foam,” said Ruta Pearson, VP of sales and marketing for Pearson Foods Corp. “We wanted a stylish, crystal-clear ramen bowl to showcase our fresh ingredients and give customers confidence in the quality and freshness. At the same time, the bowl had to be microwaveable, heat resistant for fast and easy preparation and recyclable. Overall, the packaging and design had to be eye-catching, unique and provide a variety of merchandizing options for our retail produce and deli customers. This is definitely not your college ramen.”
Pearson brought in Display Pack, a food packaging manufacturer, to design the custom ramen bowl and to recommend the material to be used. Display Pack identified long-time partner Milliken & Co. and its NX UltraClear polypropylene (PP) for the development of the bowl.
NX UltraClear PP is engineered to handle hot-fill applications and microwaving, which gives consumers the choice of adding very hot water to the ingredients or combining them with room-temperature water and then heating the mixture in the microwave. The Milliken material also is well suited for low-temperature use, which is important because Fresh Ramen products are kept refrigerated.
The NX UltraClear PP also offers better environmental performance than other plastics used in single-use packaging. It is easily recycled.
Following material selection, Display Pack’s packaging engineering team worked on the bowl design. To convey the aesthetics of traditional ceramic ramen bowls, they incorporated a pedestal and decorated the sidewalls with graceful, wavy lines reminiscent of the noodles themselves.
“We aimed to design a beautiful, functional container with a hint of playfulness—the noodle motif—to deliver a unique brand experience during the whole process of choosing, preparing and enjoying the Fresh Ramen products,” said Hope Ramseyer, marketing manager, Display Pack. “The crystal-clear, custom packaging and Pearson’s fresh ingredients elevate ramen from a quick meal to an occasion.”
The team also had practical goals in mind. One was designing the bowls so they could be nested and stacked tightly together to expedite shipping, avoid damage and minimize storage requirements. Another was meeting Pearson’s tight deadline for its Fresh Ramen launch in supermarkets, convenience stores and universities. With Display Pack’s in-house design, tooling and manufacturing capabilities, and productive collaboration with Milliken on the material, the tooling for the ramen bowl went from concept to reality in five weeks.
“The NX UltraClear PP Fresh Ramen package stands out for its exceptional clarity and unique design, which boosts shelf appeal and gives discerning consumers a complete look at the healthy, fresh contents inside,” said Deidre Sandrock, global product line manager, Milliken. “Then, because the PP material tolerates both hot and cold temperature variations, it’s a simple trip from the fridge to the microwave for a hot, easy, fast, nutritious meal. New Fresh Ramen is essentially nutrition, cost-effectiveness and convenience in one great-looking package.”
Pearson’s Fresh Ramen line comprises five varieties: Sesame, Ginger, Miso, Pork and Chicken. The products will be available in stores in the U.S. beginning late summer.