Tetra Pak today unveils a packaging innovation that also introduces a totally new product category: the Tetra Fino® Aseptic 100 Ultra MiM carton pouch, which turns dairy and juice drinks into ice creams. Packaging Europe’s Tim Sykes spoke exclusively to Hemant Krashak (product director, Carton Value and Economy) ahead of the launch.

The new Tetra Fino® Aseptic 100 Ultra MiM, launched today at Gulfood Manufacturing, looks set to set off an earthquake in the food industry, redefining the ice cream / ice lolly supply chain and business model, while inviting dairy / juice producers to tap into the $72 billion global ice cream market within their existing production process. The concept is simple: dairy or juice drinks are produced and distributed at ambient temperatures in single-portion carton pouch packages, then transformed into ice creams or lollies when frozen either in the retail environment or in the consumer’s home.

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“The idea was originally conceived with the developing world in mind,” revealed Hemant Krashak. “In markets where supply chains are challenging with regard to consistent temperature control this provides a secure solution. However, we came to realise that there is also a great opportunity in developed markets. The concept eliminates the need for refrigerated storage and distribution, which reduces energy consumption. In addition to the sustainability benefits, the new format can deliver consumer convenience: families can buy a pack of ice creams for the week during their shop without worrying about getting them into the freezer before they melt.”

An extension of the existing Tetra Fino® Aseptic portfolio, the new pouch format required some modifications for its new application. “We needed to work both on the shape and the opening,” Mr Krashak revealed. “The pack needed to be taller and thinner, while the challenge of convenient consumption was met by creating a full-top opening that is pre-applied using Tetra Pak’s Direct Injection Moulding technology. The pack can be opened entirely by pulling the tab, so it’s easy for a child to enjoy the product.”

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The Tetra Fino® Aseptic 100 Ultra MiM came about after a leading Chinese brand Want Want approached Tetra Pak seeking a solution to its supply chain challenges. According to Mr Krashak, the R&D project was one of the fastest he has seen turned around, taking just one and a half years to reach fruition – though also facilitated by recent injection moulding innovations that were long in the development.

According to Want Want, sample trials have been warmly received by consumers – parents reassured of the health benefits because the product is literally their trusted brand of flavoured milk without preservatives, while children are happy to enjoy them as ‘frozen treats’. The format will be fully rolled out on the Chinese market at the start of 2018. After that, the pack will be commercially available across the Middle East, Europe and Asia. “We’ve had lots of interest across these regions,” remarked Mr Krashak. “So far there’s particular interest for milk-based ice-creams but also from a couple of fruit-based drink producers.”

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Produced on the A1 Tetra Pak filling machine platform, the new format brings new chilled dessert markets into play for dairy and juice beverage manufacturers. This is surely the most significant example we’ve seen so far of Tetra Pak’s value chain collaboration strategy, whereby it leverages its consumer intelligence and resources such as the Customer Innovation Centres to take a lead not just in innovation of packaging but of product categories themselves. Time will tell whether this concept takes off more as a product chilled in the consumer’s freezer for in-home consumption or chilled at point of sale for out-of-home treats. Either way, ambient distribution might just be the biggest disruption in the ice-cream market for a generation.