Fast-paced lifestyles of the working class and a growing number of Millennials demanding on-the-go options are two contributing factors to the rise in the ready-to-eat (RTE) prepared foods market with a projected CAGR of 7.2% between 2016-2026. ( Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026 ) What exactly classifies a product as RTE? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a ready-to-eat product is defined as “animal or plant derived food that is cooked, frozen, washed, cooked for hot holding, cooled, and processed to be consumed directly or after heating.” Packaging for RTE food products can come in many forms or in a variety of materials including aluminum foils, extruded polyethylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and cellophane. These types of materials offer versatility for keeping food shelf-stable, while utilizing less shelf space and materials than traditional tin cans and many allow for cooking food directly within the package for eating or serving. A common RTE package used for microwaveable soups, sauces, rice and pasta dishes are stand-up pouches. This flexible packaging format is also commonly seen in prepared baby foods, juices, yogurts and wet pet foods. These newly designed packages raise questions on how to properly make required expiration and identification marks. Consider the following factors: Packaging substrate – Most common RTE meal packaging is made up of non-porous plastics or foils, meaning your mark either requires ink or ribbon that will adhere to non-porous surfaces for a permanent mark solution Branding – Consumers value freshness, portion control, and perceived health benefits of these RTE products meaning new creative packaging innovations are necessary to stand out on the shelves. This requires finesse from the manufacturer or packager in strategically placing freshness dates in locations on the product that are easily visible by consumers and maintain permanency without compromising the integrity of the brand packaging Integration – If your product is packaged via a vertical or horizontal form fill and seal machine, consider marking and coding printers that will most easily integrate into that process to still achieve demanding throughput goals If you’re a food manufacturer focused on the ready-to-eat meal or snack market, it is critical to have the right partner in place to assist with marking and coding solutions that won’t disrupt your operation. According to the study Ready-to-Eat Food Market, the North American RTE market is forecasted to be valued at $78.73 billion. ( Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026 ) Our experts are ready to speak with you about how our thermal transfer overprinters or continuous inkjet systems can meet your product identification needs.