Baby food packaging for pureed infant food has traditionally been glass jars. New demands for convenience and freshness have given away to trends involving plastic, sealed containers and pouches. Dry baby foods, such as cereals, rice puffs, and crackers, are typically packaged in boxes or tubs. Prepared meals geared toward older babies and toddlers are often available in bowl-like containers or sealed plastic trays.
Purees of varying thickness and textures are frequently available in glass jars, which have been a common form of baby food packaging for decades. Processing of jarred purees is similar to home canning, and containers are sanitized and sealed by being cooked at high heat for an extended amount of time. Glass jars of baby food usually have a shelf life of approximately one year. Taste and nutritional quality are mostly preserved, although the process may compromise some of the flavor.
The demand for unbreakable baby food packaging, and milder processing procedures, has given way to plastic packages in recent years. These innovations include containers with sealed, foil covers and pouches that may have resealable zipper-style closures or twist-tops. These are more portable than glass, and do not require as long a heating process during packaging, resulting in more flavor and nutrients preserved in the final product. Although baby food packaged in plastic is heated to the same temperature as that stored in glass, the temperature can be held for 25% to 40% less time, while still adequately sterilizing the product.
Dry rice and oatmeal infant cereals are typically sealed in plastic bags contained in cardboard boxes, or plastic tubs sealed with foil. Since these are packaged dry, they usually have shelf-lives ranging from one to two years. Some packages have built-in spouts, so small amounts of cereal can be dispensed, mixed with liquids, and served, without exposing the rest of the cereal in the package to outside elements. Rice puffs, often marketed as an ideal first finger food for babies, are often packaged in plastic tubs, and crackers or teething biscuits are usually available in plastic wrappers sealed in cardboard boxes.
Baby food packaging for foods geared toward older babies and toddlers may be packaged similarly to adult convenience foods. For instance, microwaveable tubs may contain dried pieces of pasta, meat, and vegetables that can be mixed with water and heated. Some products are manufactured in sealed plastic trays that contain small servings of foods suitable for older babies. These are generally heated and served instantly.