Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Keeping up with technology

Technology has become so advanced in the food industry. For some products, new packaging brings longer shelf life, convenience, and new ways of cooking. New packaging leads to new ways of processing food and new ways of preserving or caring for food products.

The bottom line for consumers is cost, ease of handling, and whether the food tastes or looks good.

The entire line of Crisco shortening products has been reformulated to contain zero grams of trans fat per serving while retaining the performance and taste that consumers expect. (Crisco oils and sprays always contained zero grams of trans fat.)

From Kuhn Rikon, the innovative MagicCover features a design of silicone and stainless steel that creates a lasting airtight seal on various bowls, pans, pots, and plates. I tested the food-storage cover at home, hoping that it would fit at least one of my mixing bowls. It didn't.

But there was a saving grace.

The MagicCover may be used as a splatter guard. It also may cover a bowl so that you can stack another dish on top in your refrigerator. I like that. Often when I have company, I have so much to store in the refrigerator and so little room. A cover that allows another dish to sit on top is a handy piece of equipment.

I also have been trying another technology: the self-heating, single-serving beverage. The company is OnTech; the brand is Hillside. By pressing the bottom of a beverage container, a foil seal is broken, allowing water to drain into a heating chamber that contains quicklime (calcium oxide). The water reacts with the quicklime, heating the beverage, which remains in a separate chamber. Quicklime is created by cooking limestone rocks and is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, according to the package description.



Recently, I received a sample of the Hillside Self-Heating Beverages Powered by OnTech. They included Hillside Coffee Double Shot Latte and French Vanilla Latte, Hillside Hot Cocoa, and Hillside Chai Tea.

It was a subzero day and I wanted a cup of coffee, so I immediately read the three-step directions of these containers that had just arrived. The containers were cold, very cold. I turned the container upside-down, pulled off the tamper-proof bottom, and placed my thumb on the push button. It was too frozen to heat up.

Lesson I learned: Always use these products at room temperature. The next day when I tried the Hillside Hot Cocoa, now at room temperature, the process worked. I removed the metal and went on to the push button. About 15 minutes later, the hot chocolate was ready to drink.

My colleagues and I sampled the product and noted the complex packaging of a thin layer of insulating foam, heavy plastic, aluminum, plus the interior heating chamber. At a price of about $3, there's a lot of packaging that needs requires disposal after the beverage is consumed. Flavorwise the products tend to be sweeter without the depth of coffee flavor.

When OnTech introduced its self-heating, single-serving coffee in 2005, Wolfgang Puck, owner of trendy restaurants Spago and Chinois, licensed his name to the product line. Mr. Puck discontinued the relationship in 2006. OnTech now sells Hillside Self-Heating Beverages (Hillside Coffee is a name licensed from Procter & Gamble) via QVC and at select Sam's Club and Giant Eagle stores. Lakeside Foods of Wisconsin does the food production.

While this technology sounds similar to meal-ready-to-eat, used by soldiers, MREs mix magnesium iron oxide and water and need several steps, according to a 2004 USA Today article.

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