How packaging companies are working to reduce food waste
As the global population rises, focus on minimizing food waste intensifies. All along the supply chain, packaging plays a vital role in achieving this goal. Processors look to packaging companies for products that preserve freshness and extend shelf life.
Fabbri Group, Italy
Italian company Fabbri Group specializes in plain and printed stretch PVC film that focuses on both branding and waste reduction. For instance, according to Global Director of Sales and Marketing Hendrik Jan Bartels, Fabbri’s Fungustar formulation, which has been designed especially for packaging mushrooms, allows for direct contact between the mushrooms and film without creating undesired browning in the contact areas.
“Fungustar films are available in various thickness and also with micro-perforation patterns, so that the best possible shelf life can be obtained,” he said.
Gruppo Fabbri Koex, another film, provides the natural environment fruits and vegetables need. The film offers high water vapor transmission rates, which allows for an exchange of moisture with the exterior and creates a microclimate in the package, which preserves the natural freshness and quality of the product.
The Koex films do not need to be perforated to allow for breathability, which means contamination from the outside is prevented.
Through its sustainability and development program, the company has a focus on lowering food waste. According to Bartels, the company concentrates heavily on developing packaging materials that have a lower carbon footprint and a level of home compostability.
Perfotec, The Netherlands
When Perfotec founder Bas Groeneweg started his family business in the Netherlands as a Brussels sprouts farmer and shipper, he was disappointed by reports from his U.K. clients that the sprouts were decayed and brown by the time they got there. With newly acquired knowledge of laser technology, coupled with studies on respiration rates of fresh produce, Groeneweg and his colleagues developed the Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging (EMAP) system.
Fruits and vegetables begin respiring as soon as they are harvested. In order to keep from spoiling they need oxygen, said Aaron Rachlin, business development, Perfotec.
“If fresh produce is kept in sealed plastic bags, this natural respiration would soon consume all the available oxygen in the bag, triggering anaerobic respiration, which would quickly spoil the produce,” he said. “Conversely, if the packaging has too many holes – or holes that are too large – the product will decay at an accelerated rate.”
The trick, then, is to optimize the amount and size of laser micro-perforations, which is what Perfotec has done.
“By optimizing the number and size of laser micro-perforations for the actual product being packed, the quality of the produce, as well as its shelf life is significantly maintained, thereby greatly reducing wastage and unnecessary disposal of food,” Rachlin said.
When produce – fresh or processed – is not at peak freshness, consumers simply won’t buy it. Retailers lose sales, and the produce ends up in the trash. Developed by Amcor’s research and development team, P-Plus packaging aims to keep product fresh longer.
“P-Plus relies on advanced micro-perforation technology applicable to almost all substrate and formats to create a modified atmosphere to preserve product freshness,” said Susana Velez, market manager at Amcor. “It can be customized for a wide range of fruits and vegetables.”
With P-Plus films, the packaged environment for fresh produce can be carefully calibrated to the optimal respiration rates need to keep that particular type of produce fresh.
“The P-Plus films help preserve taste, appearance, texture and nutritional quality of produce by slowing down maturation,” Velez said. “The longer shelf life means more sales for retailers and less food waste overall.
Getting berries from the farm to the supermarket can be challenging. Sometimes they travel thousands of miles before reaching their end destination. During that time fluids can leak and cause mold outbreaks. McAirlaid’s FruitPad offers a solution for fluid management, while reducing the risk of bacteria and mold.
McAirlaid’s wasn’t always known for its line of fruit pads. They were best known for their absorbing pad solutions for the meat industry, which is perhaps why an interested retailer contacted them to see if they could design a solution for the berry industry. Designed with extra cushioning, the fruit pads boast breathability, absorbency and reduced microbial growth, all of which lead to significant waste reduction. According to Malte Stubbe, sales manager at McAirlaid’s, herbs will be a new focus in the upcoming season.
Apio Technology Group, USA
Food is lost all along the supply chain, much of it during transport. To address loss during transport, Apio Technology, based in California, designed BreatheWay Technology.
“BreatheWay Technology is the only kind of modified atmosphere packaging technology that can adjust to temperature variances during transportation and still maintain the required concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide,” said Shehbaz Singh, principal scientists at Apio.
By adapting to temperature fluctuations in the supply chain, BreatheWay technology controls the level of oxygen in the package and doesn’t let the package go anaerobic or let the carbon dioxide levels go higher. This extends both shelf life and quality.
“The package was developed to meet the needs of the produce industry, which for years has been dependent upon micro-perforations and laser holes on flexible films, where atmospheres within the package were not controlled better or were not tunable to the increase in temperatures during transportation,” Singh said. “BreatheWay technology not only compensates for the increase in temperature during the supply chain but is also tunable to meet the atmospheric demands of different fresh fruits and vegetables and varieties within them.”
— By Melanie Epp, contributing writer