Pesky insects, failed climate control, logistical mishaps, improper light control – all reasons that contribute to food spoilage and, in-turn, food waste. Food waste is a huge problem with staggering financial implications not to mention it’s, well, a waste of resources that we could be doing more with. But did you know that on average, 21% of all food waste arises from spoilage alone? Luckily, we have technology on our side to help combat this problem and there are a variety of processing techniques and as well as barrier packaging material structures that can help to extend the shelf-life of the commercially packaged food products found throughout the aisle of your grocery store.
One example of a food packaging and processing method used to extend the shelf-life of food products is modified atmosphere packaging. Continue reading to learn more about Modified Atmosphere Packaging (M.A.P.) and how ICPG's material solutions can help.
The same oxygen in the air that allows us to breath contributes to a process of food decay called oxidation. For example, fats and oils present in food products can oxidize, which causes the food to spoil. One of the main causes of food spoilage and waste is the growth of microbes such as bacteria, yeast and mold that feed and grow on the food product causing it to go bad. Extending product shelf life through a combination of packaging material sterilization systems and customized material barrier structures that maintain the integrity of the food product, while providing unique packaging to support brand differentiation is critical.
How M.A.P. Processing Works:
Modified atmosphere packaging (M.A.P.) is the practice of modifying the composition of the internal atmosphere of a sealed food package in order to extend the shelf-life of the product. The need for this food processing technique arises from the short shelf life of food products such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy due to the presence of oxygen. The modification process works to lower the amount of oxygen in the headspace of the packaging, replacing it with either nitrogen, carbon dioxide or a combination of both. This can be accomplished through techniques such as gas flushing and compensated vacuum. In doing so, the process of oxidation and growth of microbes is significantly delayed.
The benefit to the modified atmosphere packaging process is the delay of the on-set of food spoilage, without the use of preservatives and additives, resulting in an extended shelf-life while retaining key nutrients that are otherwise affected by alternate processing techniques.
Examples of market applications that use the M.A.P. process include:
Compatible Materials for M.A.P. Processing:
In addition to the M.A.P. process, choosing a material structure that provides a combination of oxygen and moisture barriers also helps to extend the shelf life and reduce food spoilage and waste. When developing the rollstock structure for barrier packaging applications, factors including food product, part design, processing conditions, distribution environment and retail conditions must all be considered as each variable ultimately affects shelf-life performance. Once these variables have been defined, further details such as barrier specifications, shelf-life expectations, part geometry, material attributes and part handling must all be considered to refine the design of the thermoformed part and develop a rollstock structure that will deliver optimal barrier performance. ICPG material solutions compatible with the M.A.P process can be customized to meet target extended shelf-life requirements with custom multi-layer and laminated coextruded barrier roll stock structures.
ICPG's modified atmosphere packaging solutions include:
- Polypropylene combined with custom barrier laminations or coextrusions
- Polyethylene combined with custom barrier laminations or coextrusions
- Polystyrene combined with custom barrier laminations or coextrusions
ICPG material solutions are produced from our extensive resin portfolio using materials such as our innovative XPP™ Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene which offers up to 80% improvement to OTR and MVTR barrier properties before the incorporation of EVOH, allowing the opportunity for structure optimization for extended shelf-life performance in the form of a simplified structure that is 100% recyclable using Resin ID Code (RIC) #5. This material also offers enhancements to key properties, including controlled shrinkage and enhanced stiffness to offer a drop-in solution for PS replacement initiatives for thermoforming and form-fill-seal applications. - Relevant?
Interested in learning more about how you can enhance the performance and sustainability of your modified atmosphere packaged product? Download our XPP Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene product sheet: