The latest advance in “Convenience Food” for elderly consumers


CATEGORY: Material innovations BRAND: SPGroup

Within the context of the GoldenFood project undertaken by SP Group, among other companies and entities, a package has been developed with a microwaveable valve that allows it to be sterilized in industrial autoclaves.

Specifically, the Group has achieved a valve that remains closed in this process, with temperatures of 121 degrees C, but that remains functional when heated in a microwave. It also supports freezing and pasteurisation in pressurised industrial autoclaves without opening. Source: SP Group


SP Group, a company specialised in flexible, rigid and semi-rigid packs, has achieved an important advance within the GoldenFood project to help elderly persons to eat healthy food. Starting with their VSteam Bag, the R&D&i department have made technical improvements such that not only can the bag be frozen at extreme temperatures, the product can also be pasteurised and sterilized in the factory and can subsequently be cooked in a microwave. This means that the pack complies with all guarantees for food health and safety, since the tests carried out on the VSteam Sterilizable Bag guarantee that the pack supports pasteurisation and sterilization in industrial autoclaves at a temperature of 121 degrees with no risk of breakage or leaks (under controlled conditions). 

This improvement responds to the ever-increasing demand by elderly consumers for food products that are easy and simple to cook directly in a microwave oven. Until now, the VSteam Bag made it possible to freeze products at very low temperatures and then cook them without a risk of splashing, but this new innovation guarantees the total sterility of the product, eliminating germs and toxins and extending the durability of the product.  


In this advance, the group has collaborated with the AINIA Technology Centre and with the SADA Group, a manufacturer of food products, and have carried out tests both in AINIA’s pilot installations and on an industrial level in SADA’s installations.

As Maria de Guia Blanco, the head of SP Group’s GoldenFood project, explains, “the mission of our R&D&i policy is to provide innovative solutions to companies that use our packaging and to consumers, making life easier and more comfortable for them. In this sense, with these improvements in the VSteam Sterilizable pack, we have managed to provide a definitive solution for the ‘Convenience Food’ tendency, a tendency that has already reached third place among the indicators of European innovations in food: it offers simplicity of use, it saves time and effort both in manufacturing and in cooking it at home, and it facilitates the consumption of the product”.


AINIA comments that “although achieving a flexible pack with an opening valve that is safe and doesn’t break during the sterilization process and that is comfortable and easy to manage for the consumer may seem to be impossible, the combinations of materials and the force analysis have allowed us to offer a solution that fits everyone’s requirements”.

The consumer’s experience is increasingly personalised. The segment consisting of persons over 65 is key for us, we should remember that by 2020, 30% of the EU population will be 65 or more, and our intention, in participating in the GoldenFood project, is to design and develop nutritionally-balanced foods that are attractive, comfortable and easy to handle and that are specific to the particularities of this segment of the population. In the context of this objective, our collaboration in the design of this new package has been an enriching experience, since it has allowed us to define the characteristics, so that the final result is a package that complies with our demanding requirements for food safety and nutritional quality, allowing the sterilization of consumable products and responding in the sales aisles to the needs of elderly persons for ease of handling and preparation”, explains Manuel Angel Gomez, head of development of new products for the SADA Group.



Keys of “convenience” packages aimed at senior citizens

For the people behind this advance, the keys to convenience packaging aimed at senior citizens include:


- A preference for traditional recipes. Older consumers above all want quality via products manufactured on a traditional basis. Recipes using healthy products and natural ingredients, completely recognizable and free of chemical additives.


- Easy to cook in microwave ovens, or precooked recipes that just need heating. Traditional home-style recipes, but without the messiness of preparing them. “Heat ’n’ eat” is increasingly valued.


- Easy to handle and to see. Age is accompanied by physical limitations, with mobility and eye-sight problems that require packages that are easy to handle and open, and with products that are easy to identify; ideally, the product should be visible though the packaging.


- Packaging costs. They are not willing to pay extra unless there is a clear advantage.


In 2015, the Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI, in Spanish), via the Feder Interconnect program, supported the GoldenFood project “Design and development of nutritionally-balanced, attractive foods that are comfortable and easy to handle for elderly people”, led by the company Destilaciones Bordas Chinchurreta and with the participation of La Aurora, the SADA Group, Fepamic and SP Group and with the collaboration of AINIA in some of their lines of action.

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