November 23, 2015
The packaging made by Eco-Products helps ensure grilled cheese arrives hot and crispy.

The packaging made by Eco-Products helps ensure grilled cheese arrives hot and crispy.

Students enrolled in Boulder culinary academy may be primarily interested in learning to prepare food, but sometimes the package it comes in can be just as important. Eco-Products, a Boulder-based manufacturer of compostable packaging, received two awards in November from the Foodservice Packaging Institute and QSR magazine. The awards were for the design Eco-Products produced for a container used by grilled cheese chain The Melt in conjunction with its Smart Box.

The Smart Box is a wheeled delivery system that keeps catering orders hot and fresh, maintaining temperatures between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. As Fast Company explained, the sandwiches don’t get soggy because two fans control the humidity level and evenly distribute heat. Sensors check the temperature and humidity, and a microcontroller makes adjustments accordingly.

The Melt worked with consultants formerly employed by NASA to build and program the Smart Box. However, it turned to Eco-Products to create the containers that hold the sandwiches themselves. Eco-Products designs and manufactures environmentally friendly packaging, plates, bowls, cups and utensils.

Eco-Products produced packages that are compostable, but also contribute keeping the sandwiches fresh and tasty. The packages feature crisping ridges, which elevate the sandwich so air can flow around it, and ventilation slots that allow moisture and cooler air out. By removing moisture, the container helps ensure that sandwiches remain crispy during transport.

Business Insider was impressed with the effectiveness of the packaging when reviewing the Hot Box. “Each sandwich sits in a pocket so that it doesn’t get squished in transit,” wrote visual features reporter Melia Robinson, noting that the container’s design successfully removed moisture in the process.

In the awards announcement, QSR laid out the criteria Eco-Products had fulfilled. Eco-Products received Second Place in Performance Innovation, which is “presented for design innovations that improve product performance.” It also received Third Place in “Wow” Factor, which is “presented for innovative packaging that best personifies the ‘Wow’ effect when consumers or foodservice operators use or see the packaging.”

Wendell Simonson, Eco-Products vice president, expressed enthusiasm for the collaboration to QSR. Simonson said, “We’re thrilled to be working with The Melt, an innovative company that really cares about its guests, its employees and its commitment to a cleaner planet.”

The Melt expanded from its California home base into Colorado in 2015. It currently has locations in Denver, Littleton and Lone Tree. However, those restaurants do not presently offer catering, so you may have to wait to experience the Smart Box technology for yourself.