NOVA Chemicals is Helping Solve the Meal Kits Packaging Challenge

New products and film structure designs help keep food fresh in transit

Calgary, Alberta, Canada (February 21, 2018) – NOVA Chemicals Corporation (“NOVA Chemicals”) is helping film processors, converters, and brand owners develop high-performance sustainable packaging solutions for the fast-growing meal kits industry. New resins, coupled with expertise in multilayer film design and a deep understanding of the rigors of e-commerce shipping and handling, enable the company to collaborate on solutions to these emerging packaging needs.

“High-performance food packaging has never been as important as it is today,” states Jonathan Quinn, flexible markets development manager for NOVA Chemicals’ polyethylene performance films group. “Over the last several years, NOVA Chemicals has developed a deep understanding of the complex and evolving meal kits segment to support our customers and other supply chain players as they work on new packaging with brand owners.”

Convenience is driving consumers to do more and more of their shopping online. Business Insider reports that “nearly all the growth in the retail sector now takes place in the digital space”, and the food category is no exception. Meal kits – the subscription services for ready-to-cook meal recipes and ingredients – are growing three times faster than any other food segment according to Buyer Insights, and all that perishable food needs to get to the consumer fresh.

Perishable food deliveries create new challenges for the supply chain including product freshness, package integrity and package sustainability. Instead of bulk deliveries to the grocery store that are then merchandised and hand-selected by the consumer, foods are portioned by co-packers or distribution facilities and shipped to the consumer’s home – a very different supply chain that often results in more packaging overall. In addition, unlike the brick and mortar system, the seller retains responsibility for e-commerce deliveries until it reaches the consumer’s home and the consumer inspects it.

In short, e-commerce is rewriting the requirements for packaging performance. To protect perishable contents from the rigors of “last-mile” shipping and handling, primary food packaging requires a higher level of abuse resistance, as well as hermetic seals and overall seal integrity. Secondary packaging, the insulating layer that keeps the food at the proper temperature in transit, is just as critical. According to a recent Rutgers & Tennessee State University study, nearly 47 percent of foods shipped to consumers arrive with surface temperatures above 40 degrees F, rendering them unsafe for consumption.

“Solving the packaging challenge is key to transforming the meal kits business from a trend to a permanent segment of the food market,” states Mark Kay, leader of NOVA Chemicals’ polyethylene performance films group. “Packaging materials, such as our high-performance polyethylenes, help ensure that fresh food deliveries are still truly fresh when the consumer arrives home to a meal-kit box on their doorstep.”

Primary packaging solutions deliver performance and sustainability

NOVA Chemicals Polyethylene business has developed several resins that are ideal for food e-commerce primary packaging. For example, VPsK914 is an ultra-durable sealant resin that is tough enough for granola and bone-in chicken, and can even replace plastomers in some applications. SPsK919, commonly used in heavy duty sack applications, has the stiffness-toughness balance, creep resistance, and sealant properties to also be ideal in heavier food e-commerce packages. In addition, SURPASS® HPs167-AB and HPs667-AB resins offer moisture barrier performance unmatched in other polyethylenes.

These, along with other performance polymers used in multilayer film structures, provide package performance. NOVA Chemicals has designed recyclable film structures that have the properties required for food e-commerce and the sustainability that brand owners and consumers are demanding. Two structure designs, one with moisture barrier and another with moisture and oxygen barrier, may be used in a wide range of food applications and are approved to carry the How2Recycle® store drop off package label.

Insulation for Food Freshness

NOVA Chemicals’ Polyethylene and Expandable Styrenics businesses also have been working on a conceptual design for the insulating vessels used to ship weekly meal kit subscriptions. These vessels, aimed at reducing the spoilage risks and handing challenges of this unique supply chain, are designed to enable fresh food ingredients to each be kept at their proper temperature until the consumer unpacks the vessel at home.

“Meal kit delivery companies face a huge challenge in keeping fresh foods at their proper temperature until the consumer unpacks the order at home,” states Bob Stoffa, NOVA Chemicals’ Expandable Styrenics sales leader. “Many people who’ve tried one of these services has a story about a delayed or damaged vessel, or arriving home late, only to find their weekly order has spoiled ingredients. Customized vessel design can greatly reduce this problem, and a reusable vessel has tremendous sustainability benefits as well.”

The growth of the meal kits delivery business is fueled by its tremendous benefits, from enabling busy Millennials to have the home-cooked meals they crave to reducing typical in-home food waste up to 62 percent, according to Tom Karst’s June 2017 article in The Packer. The Packaged Facts April 2016 report “Meal Kit Delivery Services in the U.S.” predicts that the segment will reach $11.6B USD by 2022. High-performance primary and secondary packaging are both essential to its success.

To learn more about packaging solutions for the meal kits market, join NOVA Chemicals at one of the conferences this spring where Jonathan Quinn will be speaking on the topic:

Quinn is also speaking this spring on the broader challenges of e-commerce food packaging at the FPA annual meeting, the WPA and AMERIPEN annual conferences, and PLASTICS’ North American Flexible Film and Bag Conference.

About NOVA Chemicals

NOVA Chemicals develops and manufactures chemicals and plastic resins that make everyday life safer, healthier and easier. Our employees work to ensure health, safety, security and environmental stewardship through our commitment to sustainability and Responsible Care®. NOVA Chemicals, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is wholly-owned ultimately by Mubadala Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

About NOVA Chemicals Polyethylene Business

The NOVA Chemicals polyethylene business enables its customers’ success with a portfolio of more than 125 specialized SURPASS®, SCLAIR® and NOVAPOL® resins. Each new NOVA Chemicals resin is developed to meet customer requirements, from drop-in consistency to step-out performance attributes. Our customer-centric approach drives our business.


Media inquiries, please contact:
Andie Stiles
NOVA Chemicals

The NOVA Chemicals logo and NOVAPOL are registered trademarks of NOVA Brands Ltd.; authorized use/utilisation autorisée. SURPASS and SCLAIR are registered trademarks of NOVA Chemicals Corporation in Canada and of NOVA Chemicals (International) S.A. elsewhere; authorized use/utilisation autorisée. Responsible Care is a registered trade mark of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

How2Recycle is a registered trademark of the Green Blue Institute.

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