Packaging solution provider and ethnic foods company join to release line of authentic Asian soups and broths in the United States.
When Annie Chun’s, the successful ethnic foods company, wanted to expand its product line beyond sauces and Asian pastas to include soups and broths, the company joined forces with Tetra Pak for a customized solution in aseptic processing and packaging. In October 2001, the companies released Annie Chun’s Traditional Miso Soup Broth, Shiitake Mushroom Japanese Udon Broth and Ginger Chicken Chinese Soup Broth in the Tetra Brik™ Aseptic carton.
Craving Homemade Convenience
Understanding the demand for healthy, authentic Asian foods with a home cooked feel, Annie Chun started her food company by selling homemade Asian sauces at the Marin County Farmers’ Market in 1992. With the goal of making Asian cooking “as easy to prepare as spaghetti” for U.S. consumers and the outstanding success of her authentic Asian sauces, Annie launched a line of Asian noodles in late 1996.
Ready to expand the high-demand product line even further, Chun and her company planned to complement the Asian sauces and noodles with authentic soups and broths. Looking for a company to help with the launch of its Asian soups and broths, Annie Chun’s found a perfect match in Tetra Pak, a company that exceeds the demand for healthy and environmentally friendly packaging solutions.
Planning the Perfect Meal
“As a working mother, I want to spend as much time as possible with my family while still giving them the same healthy meals that I grew up with,” said Chun. “My goal is to extend that opportunity to U.S. consumers with easy-to-prepare, authentic and nutritious meals, now enhanced with the Annie Chun’s soup and broth line.”
According to Mintel International Group, there are two major drivers pushing the Asian food market in the U.S.—the growing number of Asians in the country and the increased food sophistication of an aging baby boom generation.
Annie Chun’s products will only continue to increase in demand in the company’s target market and category. According to the U.S. census report there was a 43% growth of the Asian population in the United States between 1990-1999 and in 1998 alone, Asian food sales jumped 26.5%.
Finding the Right Ingredients
When Annie Chun’s examined the packaging possibilities for the launch of the Asian soups and broths, the company had to find a solution that would maintain a fresh and healthy brand. The soups also contain many special ingredients and unique flavors that are both imported into and cultivated in the United States. Because of the sensitive ingredients and Annie Chun’s high demand for quality, the company also needed a packaging partner that would enhance the extensive research and development work necessary for the launch of the soups and broths.
“Already known as the ‘go-to’ partner for natural foods manufacturers, Tetra Pak’s ability to provide key resources to growing food companies made it the true partner for Annie Chun’s,” said Steve Broad, president of Annie Chun’s.
Prior to production, Annie Chun’s collaborated with Tetra Pak in research and development to ensure the best quality and taste with the convenient and shelf-stable package. Working with Dr. James Gratzek, director of aseptic technology, and Steve Hellenschmidt, general manager of prepared foods, of Tetra Pak, Annie Chun’s experimented with production of their soup flavors at the Tetra Pak Pilot Plant in Denton, Texas.
Utilizing specialized flavors like miso, a fermented product, Tetra Pak and Annie Chun’s had to go through various stages of product formulation and testing. After two visits to Denton to test product, Annie Chun’s was ready to produce its soup toward the end of the summer in 2001.
Ready to Cook
After the two companies ran the final test line at Tetra Pak’s Pilot Plant, they were ready for final production and distribution. Annie Chun’s soups and broths are packaged in Tetra Pak’s Tetra Brik Aseptic, a 1-liter slim recap 3 carton.
Because of Tetra Pak’s close association with its co-packers, Annie Chun’s was aligned with California Natural Products as the co-packer for its soups and broths. The filling machine is Tetra Pak’s TBA/21.
Tetra Pak worked with Annie Chun’s complex artwork and had the packaging printed and shipped mid-September 2001 for the October launch. The printing is done in Flexo with 4-colors. Due to the package design, Annie Chun’s soups also have the recipes listed on the sides of the carton.
“There is no question that without the close support of Tetra Pak, Annie Chun’s would have missed the 2001-2002 soup season,” said Broad.
The benefits of packaging Annie Chun’s soups and broths in the Tetra Brik Aseptic fit the company’s brand vision of providing convenient, authentic and healthy products to people in the U.S.
“Aseptic packaging technology has its advantages at many different levels. It is especially attractive to natural and healthy food companies because no additives or preservative are necessary to maintain the high quality freshness and flavors of their products,” said Andrew Dun, vice president, new business development, Tetra Pak.
This was an important qualifier with Annie Chun’s soups due to the unique flavors and ingredients. The cartons are also easy to ship and distribute due to their reduced weight, stackability and ability to be kept ambient or chilled.
Consumers can keep unopened products in the aseptic package on the shelf or in the pantry for up to ten months after purchase. The Tetra Brik Aseptic also offers consumers the multi-serve and reclosable capabilities lacking in traditional cans of soup. The cartons are also 100% recyclable.
Serving Up a Gourmet Success
With Tetra Pak’s help, Annie Chun’s was first to market with its unique Asian soups and broths in aseptic packaging. In fact, Annie Chun’s is the first company in the world to produce miso soup with Tetra Pak.
“Annie Chun’s gave Tetra Pak a great opportunity do produce another ‘first’ in aseptic packaging,” said Dun. “As an innovative company, we are looking to open new markets within packaging, as well as deepen our core expertise in aseptic processing technology.”
Annie Chun’s new soup and broth product line has further solidified the company’s position as a key innovator in natural foods. Whereas many products in the ethnic section of stores tend to be traditional and very country oriented, Annie Chun’s relationship with Tetra Pak has extended the cuisine oriented brand image.
“Retailers are absolutely thrilled by the quality and image Annie Chun’s brand provides, and are making our products a growing part of their everyday shelf offerings,” said Broad.
Annie Chun’s soups and broths are now found on store shelves in three flavors-- Traditional Miso Soup Broth, Shiitake Mushroom Japanese Udon Broth; and a Ginger Chicken Chinese Soup Broth--at SuperTarget, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fred Meyer. Consumers can also purchase Annie Chun’s products online at http://www.anniechun.com. The soups have become a million dollar product in the first six months, a significant number for a small company like Annie Chun’s.
About Tetra Pak
Established in the United States in 1984, Tetra Pak Inc. develops, produces and markets complete processing and packaging solutions and provides systems engineering, packaging materials, technical field services and spare parts support. Best known for its aseptic processing and packaging solutions, Tetra Pak is also an innovative provider of plastic bottling solutions in the United States. For more information on Tetra Pak, please visit www.tetrapakusa.com/grow/
About Annie Chun’s
Founded in 1992 in Northern California, Annie Chun's makes convenient, all natural Asian-style foods, including sauces, noodles, "meal kits" (noodles and sauce) and soups. Annie Chun's products are available in retail grocery, gourmet and natural foods markets throughout the US.