Microperforated packaging reduces food waste

Published: 23-12-2015

Microperforated packaging extends the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Using this technology, produce is still fresh after a six-week sea voyage or delayed transport during peak production. After successfully introducing perforated packaging for fresh produce, PerfoTec is now working on bread and cut-flower packaging.

In fresh produce, more than forty percent of products are destroyed because they are unsalable. This is a costly type of product loss. PerfoTec has developed packaging that slows down produce’s respiration rate, retarding the aging and spoilage process so that fruit and vegetables remain saleable much longer.

Ivo Hendriks, Sales Director at PerfoTec, explains how the packaging works. “By reducing the amount of oxygen in the packaging, you slow down the fruit and vegetable’s respiration. Produce is often packaged in plastic with large holes through which air is exchanged and the product continues to breathe. Closed packaging with tiny holes can reduce the oxygen content inside while preventing the product from suffocating.”

Customized packaging
PerfoTec’s technology can gear the size of microperforations exactly to the respiration of specific products. The distribution of the perforations is calculated using a respiration meter. This equipment measures the respiration of a product sample for four hours. Then a model calculation determines how the microperforations need to be distributed in order to reduce the product’s respiration.

PerfoTec’s Respiration Control System has been tested for a large number of products, such as stone fruits, berries, exotic fruits, potatoes, pre-cut vegetables and fruit. Tests showed that the shelf-life of these products in the supermarket was extended by as much as four days. “This study also showed that respiration doesn’t just depend on the type of product, but also on the variety and the season,” says Hendriks. “That’s why we now supply three types of bags for packaging bell peppers, for example. The size and distribution of the perforations has been customized to the beginning, middle and end of the growing season.”

Bulk packaging
PerfoTec initially developed the technology for retail packaging, but have now added a solution for bulk packaging. These ‘crate bags’ are intended for sea transportation, as Hendriks explains. “Crate bags can be used to transport fresh produce by sea instead of air. That means the cost of transportation drops dramatically. We did a test with blueberries, where we packaged in our crate bags and shipped from Chile to Europe by sea. Upon arrival, six weeks later, the berries were still fresh.”

It is not only packers that can benefit from these new long-haul bags. Growers stand to gain too. “Peaks in production are inevitable,” says Hendriks. “If one grower has a bumper crop, many other growers usually do too, and that pushes the price down. Our microperforated packaging makes it possible to store fresh produce without affecting the quality. For example, one grower of sweet pointed peppers used our bags to create a buffer during the peak of his harvest. By storing the peppers for 10 days without affecting their quality, he was able to sell them at a time when he could get a better price.”

Flowers and bread
Microperforated packaging can also be used to package other products. PerfoTec is experimenting with solutions for cut flowers. “These are often transported over long distances,” says Hendriks. “Quality and shelf life are known issues. We’ve just run our first tests in collaboration with the Aalsmeer flower auction and the results are promising. Vase life is the true gauge of success.” Another development, still in its early stages, is special packaging for bread. “Consumers love that crispy crust. And that’s the first thing that gets lost when you package bread,” says Hendriks. “We’re working on packaging that can maintain crispiness.”

For supermarkets, avoiding food waste is becoming more and more important. The UK is spearheading this development. There, supermarkets are experimenting with extended sell-by dates on microperforated packaging. “You can tell that people are becoming more aware of the need to stop wasting food. Supermarkets used to be all about pushing boxes around. But now, quality and shelf life are their primary concern. Our packaging technology is the perfect match for this development,” concludes Hendriks.