Crystalline Polyethylene Terephthalate, abbreviated as CPET, is an alternative to aluminium trays. CPET trays are the most versatile option of the ready meal concept. CPET is used primarily for ready meals. Production is based on the esterification reaction between ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid and is partially crystallised, making it opaque. As a result of the partially crystalline structure, CPET retains its shape at high temperatures and is therefore suitable for use with products that are to be heated in ovens and microwave ovens.
Standard for almost all CPET products is an APET top layer, which has particularly good sealing properties and gives the products an attractive, lustrous appearance. The precision control of the material’s crystallinity means that the product can be used within a temperature range of –40°C to +220°C. This meets the needs of consumers, who require good impact resistance at low temperatures and shape retention at high temperatures. CPET also forms a highly effective barrier against oxygen, water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
CPET trays are a perfect solution for Foodservice. They are suitable for a wide range of cuisines, food styles and applications. They have been designed for convenience: Grab – Heat – Eat. Meals can be kept frozen and heated when ready which makes this type of tray very popular. The trays can be pre-prepared days earlier and in a larger quantities, sealed for freshness and stored fresh or frozen, then simply heated or cooked and placed directly into the Bain Marie for service.
Another application for which the trays are used in Meals on Wheels services – where the food is divided into the tray’s compartments, packaged, delivered to the consumer who then heats up the meal in the oven or microwave. CPET trays are also used Hospital Meal Service as they provide an easy solution for the elderly or unwell consumer. The trays are easy to handle, there is no preparation or washing up needed.
CPET trays are also used for bakery products such as desserts, cakes or pastry. These items can be unpacked and finished off in the oven or microwave.
CPET provides greater flexibility because the material is very mouldable and allows for the design of a tray with more than one compartment which improves the presentation and visual appeal of the product. And there are more advantages with CPET. While other trays easily become deformed, CPET trays return to their original form after impact. Furthermore, some trays do not provide the same freedom of design as a CPET tray, as the material is too unstable to be used for multi-compartment trays.
Multi-compartment trays are advantageous if the tray requires to hold a ready meal with both meat and vegetables, as the quality of the vegetables is improved by storage in a seperate compartment. Also, Portion control is very important in the provision of some meals for weight loss and special diets. The customer simply heats and eats, knowing that their exact requirements have been catered for.
The CPET trays can also be manufactured in dual colours. This improves the visual appeal while the options of colour printing and a logo provide differentiation on store shelves. In the ready meal market, dual-coloured CPET trays have been a direct path to increased sales for food producers.
CPET is also a sustainable packaging solution, as the product primarily contains rPET, which is recovered from plastic bottles and other sources. These recovered materials undergo a cleaning process to ensure that the material is subsequently approved for food use. Replacing PET with rPET reduces carbon emissions by 50% and all of the trays containing rPET are equipped with a top layer that serves as a functional barrier, providing high food safety.
*While all PET trays are fully recyclable, some recycling centres are un-equipt to detect black plastics during the recycling process.