Expanding Your Horizontal Packaging Horizons - 3rd edition
Expanding Your Horizontal Packaging Horizons
Modified Atmosphere Packaging Extends Shelf Life- Issue 3
By Leon Arkesteijn, Product Manager, Bosch Packaging Technology
Following the previous issue highlighting how wet wipes manufacturers can benefit from flexible packaging lines with easy changeovers this article provides insight into how modified atmosphere packaging can give brands the edge on product safety and freshness.
It’s a fact that fresh food won’t stay fresh forever. Cheese can grow mold and meat can spoil, not only rendering these items unfit for human consumption but also wasting both consumer and manufacturer money. To make perishable food last as long as possible, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technology, which introduces and regulates various gas mixtures within a package, is a highly effective way to preserve food products. It offers an alternative to other methods of preserving foods, such as heat sterilization or freezing, and is able to extend product freshness without affecting the taste, quality, texture, or nutrition.
Packaging machinery designed to incorporate MAP technologies via hermetic sealing capabilities greatly improves product freshness, reduces the amount of added preservatives and extends shelf life. As a result, MAP technologies help manufacturers meet logistical manufacturing and transportation needs while serving market demands, such as increasingly health-conscious consumers who desire fewer preservatives. For food manufacturers, MAP technologies help prevent food products from spoiling during shipping, as well as enhance a brand’s reputation for freshness, resulting in consumer loyalty and greater sales potential.
Fresh foods have varying rates of spoilage and the science behind MAP is based on blending the right percentages of gases into a packaging environment. The three gases most commonly used for MAP are oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2). When these gases are introduced into a closed packaging environment, such as one with a high-barrier film, they produce an atmosphere inside a package that delays spoilage by as much as 800 percent.
Fresh foods are "living" products and therefore consume oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, water and heat. Maintaining the right mixture of gases and regulating moisture are critical to maintaining and extending shelf life, and each specific food being packaged requires a unique blend of gases. For example, fresh meat necessitates a high amount of oxygen to stay fresh while hard cheese needs an environment of 100 percent carbon dioxide to extend its shelf life by up to ten weeks.
Guidelines for common foods and their ideal gas blends can be found below.
|Food||Gas Mixture||Extended Shelf-Life|
|Meats||70% O2 + 30% CO2
Note: percentages can vary depending on type of meat
|2 – 5 days|
|Fresh Fish||40% CO2 + 30% O2 + 30% N2||3 – 10 days|
|Hard cheese||100% CO2||3 – 10 weeks|
|Soft Cheese||70% CO2 + 30% N2||8 – 21 days|
|Fruit & Vegetables||80% N2 + 5% O2 + 15% CO2||3 – 8 days|
|Pre-baked Bread||100% CO2||5 – 20 days|
|Sandwiches||70% CO2 + 30% N2||2 – 10 days|
|Coffee||100% N2||+12 months|
Recent packaging equipment innovations have enhanced the effectiveness of MAP applications, including gas mixers and controllers, gas analyzers, tubing for flushing gas into a packaging environment, and at the heart of it all, flow wrapping machinery for hermetic sealing.
Flow wrapping technology is responsible for the all-important package sealing as leakage would compromise the protective gas mixture and therefore the shelf life of the product. As a result, the choice of flow wrapping machinery is critical. Recent improvements to the sealing capabilities of flow wrappers, including extended dwell times, have resulted in air-tight seals.
As a supplier of packaging machines that can offer MAP equipment, Bosch encourages manufacturers to explore MAP technologies as a way to better meet demands and simplify logistics.
References : 1 – Danish Technological Institute, "Guide – Packaging Fresh Fruit and Vegetables," 2008, p. 4