Eco-Products has teamed up with The Melt to solve a mystery that has vexed chefs, restaurants and caterers for decades: how to keep grilled cheese sandwiches hot, crispy and "ooey gooey" until they're delivered to their catering destination. The result has earned Eco-Products two industry honors for creating a compostable box that prevents grilled cheese sandwiches from getting soggy and stale and instead keeps them fresh, hot and crispy during their catering commute.
"These containers are a true marvel of engineering in food packaging," said Wendell Simonson, Vice President for Eco-Products, based in Boulder, Colo.
The Melt, a rapidly growing fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in all-natural, better-for-you, real happy comfort foods, needed an inventive catering solution to deliver its signature grilled cheese sandwiches. Turning to its Silicon Valley roots, the company developed advanced technology to create the new "Smart Box" -- the food industry's first catering delivery system using sophisticated software to perfectly balance humidity, heat, and air circulation.
The Melt partnered with Eco-Products to design compostable containers that would complement the new Smart Box. The Eco-Products design team created a revolutionary new container that acts as a sort of portable convection oven to keep sandwiches tasting just as good at their destination as they do in the restaurant. In addition to grilled cheese, the new Eco-Products container works perfectly with The Melt's cheeseburgers, too.
"We want to ensure the best product experience for our guests in store, at the office, or for any occasion," said Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of The Melt. "We just couldn't find an existing catering delivery solution that could do the job, so we invented one ourselves."
The container is 100 percent compostable – meaning it's not only good for customers, it's good for the environment. The innovative box earned Eco-Products two prestigious awards this month from the Foodservice Packaging Institute and QSR magazine:
The Second Place Award for Performance Innovation, presented for design innovations that improve product performance.
The Third Place Award for the "Wow" Factor, presented for innovative packaging that best personifies the "Wow" effect when consumers or foodservice operators use or see the packaging.
"It's great to see the industry honoring compostable packaging for innovation," Simonson said. "It shows that environmentally friendly products perform just as well – and oftentimes even better – than conventional products."
Eco-Products designed the box with a number of innovative features, including:
Crisping ridges: These ridges elevate the sandwich off the base and allow air to flow around the sandwich. This prevents moisture from becoming trapped underneath the sandwich, keeping the bread hot and crispy.
Moisture ventilation: Strategically placed ventilation slots allow moisture and cooler air to escape.
"The result is sandwiches delivered to your home or office that taste just as good as they do at the restaurant," Simonson said. "It's something you have to taste to believe."
Thanks to its success in California, The Melt is now expanding into Colorado, with five planned locations. The first two locations have opened in Lone Tree, Colo. and Denver, with three other Metro Denver locations set to open soon.