of Rocket Science, the beginning of a food delivery packaging revolution | Franchise News
Despite all the innovations in restaurant logistics, marketing, and delivery automation, there’s no denying that most food purchased locally pales in comparison to the quality of food eaten fresh. Thanks to an invention by a rocket scientist that says it has solved the problem of condensation building up in packaging, we could be on the cusp of a revolution that allows more food to travel better.
Called SAVRpak, the product is a small 4-inch by 4-inch piece of vegetable paste that is cooled and then stuck inside a shipping container before leaving the store in the hands of a courier or consumer. . Harnessing the power of thermodynamics – not chemistry as some initially expected – these food-safe wraps absorb moisture that strips the crunch from foods such as fried chicken, pizza, french fries, onion rings and dozens of other cuisines that degrade when trapped inside an airtight box.
Bill Birgen, a rocket scientist who has worked for the US Department of Defense, NASA, DARPA and Virgin Galactic, invented the SAVRpak a decade ago after years of frustration that the sandwiches he made every Sunday nights during a week of lunches would be a soggy mess by the end of the week. His career specialty was controlling harsh environments at very high altitudes, including humidity and condensation that can degrade electronics and lead to catastrophic equipment failure, so this problem was well within his wheelhouse.
“He used it in his meals for about eight years without really talking about it, because that’s what rocket scientists do,” said SAVRpak president Scott Nelson, a former vice president of marketing at Panera. “A friend of his said to him, ‘Hey, silly, that’s a big deal, you know. We could probably do something with that. So here we are.”
A mission to end soggy food
Asked what motivated him to leave such a big job for a startup, Nelson said his years at Panera – including the first six months of COVID – highlighted the lack of innovation in the world of technology. packaging, which has become a much bigger issue as much of the restaurant business has shifted to off-premises channels.
“When we get this delivery food, it’s soggy, the fries are wet, the burger buns are wet because condensation is forming in those containers,” he said. “Pizza isn’t as crunchy and crunchy as it should be…what we’re doing is ending soggy food.”
When asked if placing the chilled dough product in a small delivery package could create its own issues, such as food chilling, he said testing has proven that “temperature trends don’t were not statistically significant. He added that the company also traveled to Canada to conduct extensive testing on the fries with McCain Foods, the world’s largest maker of frozen potato products.
Breaded and fried products show the most positive results to date, with pizza, chicken of all kinds and appetizers like mozzarella sticks and onion rings all “absolutely amazing” when baked. packaged with one of the moisture absorbing packs.
“The question is, what is it not working well with?” Nelson asks. “We’re always trying to figure that out because we’re looking for things that we know will work well, but I’m sure there are things that it doesn’t work well with, but we cover most of the delivery stuff. keys with what we do.
Beyond these items, which make up the bulk of U.S. delivery and takeout, SAVRpak is also exploring large-scale applications for the technology, such as enabling product suppliers and restaurants that ship a lot of produce across the country to use the packs when transporting lettuces and herbs, for example. It is possible to significantly reduce food waste along the way.
With Mark Cuban as backer and a stack of high profile awards, SAVRpak emerged from the shadows in 2021 and used the recent National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago as a release party to showcase its humidity control product. Drop-In which extends the shelf life of products up to three times.
The company has signed a major agreement with Sysco to use the product in 75 of that company’s warehouses, as well as a number of smaller independent restaurateurs. From there, the company plans to grow rapidly, and Nelson said his team “talks to almost every major QSR, whether it’s piloting or testing.”
While the Orange County-based company has fewer than 15 employees, Nelson said “anyone can work with us in any form,” especially large operations with 50 or more locations. The goal, of course, is to rapidly scale up production to meet the already massive demand seen by delivery volumes.
Further afield, SAVRpak is also exploring packaging partnerships so operators don’t have to travel to purchase a second product for delivery and takeout. Currently, SAVRpaks cost between 18 and 25 cents per unit.
“It’s not just an extra cost for packaging, it’s about delivering food that tastes good 30 minutes later, food that is what it’s supposed to be,” Nelson added. “I want those chefs to be proud of that item arriving at the customer’s door 30 minutes later. We’re doing this for the chefs.