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North Carolina Firm Expands Efforts to Replace the Can With Healthier, Greener Carton Packaging

April 15, 2014 |

Image courtesy of Wright Foods/Aseptia

Image courtesy of Wright Foods/Aseptia

In early March, 2014, Raleigh-based food processing technology company Aseptia secured $28 million in Series C-Preferred Stock financing to support the growth of Wright Foods Inc., the manufacturing subsidiary of Aseptia. Lookout Capital, SJF Ventures, Prudential, and F.B. Heron Foundation provided the financing.

As a leading aseptic food manufacturer, Aseptia has developed an aseptic, sustainable, shelf-stable carton that can maintain a higher-quality food product, according to Michael Drozd, president and CEO of Wright Foods. The packaging can be found in most every grocery store.

“We started up our plant in July 2012, and started rolling out our products last year,” Drozd says. “This year, there’s going to be a big expansion and a lot more products out there.”

The carton packaging, which is about about 15 to 20 percent lighter than canned packaging, depending on what’s in the container, is created using an energy efficient method and saves on material and distribution costs. The company’s packaging technology also allows food to remain shelf stable for over 12 months without refrigeration or preservatives, and process helps maintain a higher-quality food product with preserved color and nutrients, says Drozd.

And in terms of shipping, the cartons can be easily stacked and don’t need to be frozen.

“The square carton allows you to get 25 percent more food in the same amount of space,” Drozd says. “From the time it’s in the fields to the time it’s in your freezer, you’ve got to keep it frozen the entire time. That’s a huge energy cost and opportunity for spoilage.”

Currently, 40 percent of the country is able to recycle the carton curbside, he adds.

So far, the company has grown its business through contract manufacturing. Also, more consumers now want to buy products with a cleaner ingredient label.

“I go to the grocery store and I watch consumers,” Drozd says. “They pick up packaging and read labels. It’s really been in the last two to three years where there has been a true understanding and visibility of what a healthy product means.”

And while consumers want products without additives, buyers also are demanding products that are more sustainable.

“With Aseptia, it’s a much more sustainable platform to work upon,” he says. “Cans have had their day and did really well. Now the next generation of technology is coming through. There’s a nice push for cleaner ingredient labels and better tasting products.”

Over time, Drozd believes his company’s technology will transform the way consumers look at food.

“There’s been quite a perception for a long time, understandably, that processed food is bad,” he says. “While we process the food, it’s not bad – there are processes that are good. I think that’s one of the paradigm shifts that we are focusing on. With the right technology in place you can have good processing and you can have a good ingredient label.”

So far, the demographics of people who buy food packaged in Wright Foods/Aseptia’s  cartons are quite diverse.

“Per price point, we’re not really different than the current product out there, we’re just better,” he says. “From that perspective, the demographic is definitely across the board – there’s no real trend in terms of income level.”

One trend he has seen is that buyers from Europe, Latin American/South America, are more accustomed to seeing carton packaging in stores.

“The Hispanic and the European buyer are more able to recognize the product.” Drozd says, though he adds that mainstream America is beginning to recognize that food packaged in cartons is superior to products packaged in cans.

In the future, the company plans to continue to push the envelope by creating new innovations. Wright Foods/Aseptia also is striving to create products that have never been developed before.

“We are truly a technology company, although we have a manufacturing base,” Drozd says. “We’re investing a tremendous amount of resources into the technology side to create new products that will appear in the next three to five years.”

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