Chattanooga-based Southern Champion Tray creates new product to safeguard restaurant food deliveries

Packaging created to ensure meal arrives at your door in the same condition it was when it left the eatery

Director of Administration and Business Development Trace Spier talks about the Guarantab, a tamper-evident clamshell, while meeting with the Times Free Press at Southern Champion Tray on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The need was shouting at us.

Southern Champion Tray has operated for 92 years, but the popularity of restaurant food delivery services such as Grubhub and Uber Eats has the company innovating to meet a new need.

A new product called Guarantab is a package that's designed to ensure that the food arrives at customers' doors in the same condition it left the eatery, according to the Chattanooga company.

"The need was shouting at us," said Neha Mardi, innovation strategist at the company that makes paperboard and corrugated packaging for the food industry.

Guarantab is made from sustainable paperboard with a tab lock that must be torn to open, according to the company. Also, tall side panels designed with a "bear claw" edge make removing food nearly impossible without tearing the sides or tab lock.

Mardi said there are "horror stories" about delivery people who are tampering with food, and SCT's new product helps solve that problem.

"It's a big business opportunity," she said about the product that is made in Chattanooga.

photo The Guarantab, a tamper-evident clamshell, is seen at Southern Champion Tray on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Ben Walter, the company's pricing and contract manager, said there are 750,000 meals delivered each day in the United States, and that number is growing 20% a year.

He said that it's one thing when a delivery person from Pizza Hut wearing a company shirt shows up at a house, and it's another when "a stranger" whose third-party service has contracted with a restaurant is delivering a meal.

"We want to protect America," Walter said.

Trace Spier, SCT's director of administration and business development, said when there's a delivery problem, consumers blame the restaurant.

"Most people take it out on the brands," he said, adding that there's no recourse against the drivers.

Currently, many drivers use sealable plastic bags that carry the food packaging, but they can peel that away, said Sherry Jennings, the company's marketing manager.

"That's not a solution," she said, adding that company officials believe there's nothing similar to Guarantab on the market.

Spier said the company is doing a phased rollout of the new product.

Texas and Colorado are the first states to get Guarantab, he said.

"We're working with distributors," Spier said, as well as restaurant companies.

Walter said the SCT product may cost a little more per delivery unit than current options, from 20 cents to 40 cents each. But, he said, based on food delivery service costs, the increase shouldn't be an issue.

SCT is working on a line extension of the Guarantab depending on restaurant cuisine. Company officials are hopeful of capturing 10% of the delivery market within two or three years.

photo An employee works on loading unfolded boxes into a machine at Southern Champion Tray on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. These boxes are not Guarantab clamshells.

"So far, the [restaurant] brands are very interested," said Spier.

SCT, with its headquarters located off Manufacturers Road, employs about 700 people making and distributing paperboard packaging products for the bakery, food service and custom retail markets.

SCT has manufacturing operations on Compress Street and Amnicola Highway, where it also has a large trucking facility. In addition, the company has a key facility in Mansfield, Texas.

The privately held company wouldn't reveal its annual revenues, but said growth is up 30% over the last three years.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.