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Otter Products engineers ruggedized, reusable plastic ready-meals case

From manufacturing smartphone cases to other products, Otterbox protective solutions maker Otter Products (Fort Collins, CO) now sees a fresh opportunity in a different market: ready-meals transport packaging for ecommerce. Unlike corrugated boxes that dominate the ready-meal delivery landscape, the company’s new Liviri Fresh case is aligned in the direction of the sustainably-minded reusable, refillable system ala Loop (see Game-changing waste-free shopping platform introduced by TerraCycle at Davos, published January 2019).

Unlike Loop, Liviri Fresh is an open-platform approach that will customize and provide the reusable packaging to any ecommerce-delivered ready-meal company in the market.

There’s also a serious health concern to the introduction. In a Rutgers-Tennessee State University study in 2017, researchers who ordered 169 meal kits found that nearly 47% of 684 items ordered arrived with surface temperatures above 40 degrees, rendering them unsafe to consume.

The solution to that food safety problem is the 19.3 inch-long x 15.8-inch wide by 10.7-inch tall (with lid) Liviri Box that provides a total internal volume of 1,700 cubic inches or 29.4 quarts; the box weighs 12.5 lb.

Liviri Fresh is engineered to maintain a 3-day shelf life without using ice.

The boxes are nestable and stackable—40 empty units fit in the same space as 24 units full units. It is designed to maintain temperature for three days without ice or other coolant, though using dry ice provides nearly twice the delivery shelf life to increase the e-delivery options.

Kyle Fanning, Sr Product Line Manager, Otter Products, provides answers to PlasticsToday’s questions.

What is it made of and how is it molded and assembled?

Fanning: Liviri Fresh is made from an extensively-tested and proven grade of polypropylene that has surpassed all required standards for shipping containers. This polymer is recyclable, crack-proof, food grade and chemical resistant. Liviri Fresh boxes are injection molded and assembled in Michigan, utilizing a best-in-class automotive and industrial manufacturer for precision and quality.

What key factors went into design and development?

Fanning: We focused on achieving superior thermal performance—it keeps items in safe temperature range over 80% longer than the top-performing single-use insulation of 1.5-inch-thick recycled denim; durability to achieve up to 75 round trips through the small parcel network; a delightful user experience for both shipper and consumer; and a design-for-recyclability approach at end of life.

How was this size/volume determined?

Fanning: We dialed in the volume over the last year after detailed discussions with many potential customers. We settled on a size that works well as a medium-to-large box for most perishables shippers. It will comfortably fit the most common meal kit configuration of three meals for two people.

What is the nature of the “aerospace-grade insulation”?

Fanning: Vacuum insulated panels provide superior thermal performance over single-use insulation.

What is the cost of each and how many trips to reach ROI?

Fanning: Pricing is variable based on each customer’s unique needs. We’ll offer both purchase and lease options.

What was biggest challenge to development?

Fanning: Creating a product that was both optimized for the customers’ operations during pack out while still hassle-free for consumers. This version is a second-generation design—we poured all of our learnings from our pilot test first-generation design into our current version.

How complex was this to make compared to other Otterbox products?

Fanning: It’s a similar process to our ruggedized consumer coolers, so we have the expertise, but making it rugged enough for the small parcel network took significant design work and testing.

How is it returned? Where and how is it cleaned?

Fanning: The consumer places the included return label on the outside of the box and either sets it out for an auto-scheduled pickup or they can drop off at a shipping location. We have worked out a full cleaning protocol and we can either clean the units at one of our receiving facilities, or we’ll provide the customer with a turnkey approach (protocol and equipment) to do it themselves in their fulfillment centers.

What are the branding opportunities in terms of box decoration?

Fanning: Customers will have two custom branding decals prominently displayed on the box—one on the front and one on the lid.

Has a Life Cycle Assessment been done vs. standard meal-kit delivery packaging?

Fanning: We engaged a leading sustainability consultancy, thinkstep, to conduct a comparative LCA. They have submitted their draft LCA to an independent panel for the critical review process. The study will be complete and available in early April.

What’s the commercial status? Is any brand or retailer using or testing?

Fanning: We conducted a three-month pilot test during the summer of 2018 with two major brands who used our product to ship to their customers. We’re now in discussions with many target customers.

» Publication Date: 09/04/2019

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The development of this project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union
[LIFE16 ENV/ES/000305]

This publication reflects only the author's view and that the Agency/Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains

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