Problems with the Rival Seal-a-Meal
Freezing food at home without incurring nasty and unattractive freezer burn has become easier over the past two decades with the introduction of vacuum-sealing systems. Touted as easy to use, these tools are marketed as an economical means for freezing small amounts of leftovers, large bulky items (like holiday turkeys), and even leftover soups and chilis.
Seal-a-Meal: The Price Leader
One of the most popular systems is Rival's Seal-a-Meal. Although its features are quite similar to its major competitor, FoodSaver, the Rival has a highly competitive price that is easily within reach of many home cooks. The product is not perfect, however, and it reportedly presents some frustrations for its users.
General System Challenges
Rival's Seal-a-Meal filling nozzles are flat, designed with the intention of filling empty, flat bags easily. Some consumers reported that snapping the lid closed after fitting the empty bag over the nozzle required an amount of force that was nearly impossible for some female users, even when using both hands. This action was further complicated by the plastic food bag slipping away as the pressure was applied, requiring the bag to be anchored inside another more stable container, like a box or bowl. Some users were also frustrated that the bag could not be sealed without contaminating the nozzle every time, requiring washing in between each sealing action.
Accessory & Design Complaints
Seal-a-Meal lacks some design features that are favored by users of the major competitor's product. Two commonly reported complaints were the lack of a clip for a marking pen (to identify the contents of the sealed bags) and the absence of a hook for accessory hose storage. Some users found the blade on the bag cutter dull and frustrating. Others complained that the Seal-a-Meal canisters often came apart hours, days, or weeks after being sealed, rendering the contents inedible. Despite the lower cost, consumers indicated they would have paid more had they been aware of features offered with the FoodSaver system, such as the attachment to seal Mason jars or the special lids that are compatible with regular glass jars.
The most general and common Seal-a-Meal complaint was the precision required to successfully seal food inside bags. The bags reportedly have to be placed exactly in the middle of the sealing mechanism, and the vacuum tube seems to work only when precisely placed inside the top of the bag. Wishing to learn how much room to leave at the top of the bag for proper vacuum sealing, users have become even more frustrated because of instructions that are misleading and inadequate.
Although the Seal-a-Meal canisters were praised for the easily visible seal on the lids, some consumers admitted the canisters were best sealed when adapting the Seal-a-Meal hose to fit the FoodSaver system. Users who only own one food storage sealing system do not have this flexibility.