Increasing the shelf life of food means delaying the damage that certain agents can do to it. Light, humidity, temperature and oxygen are the key culprits. For example, these agents cause enzymatic reactions, destroy vitamins and generate microbial growths and, therefore, barrier packaging is key to keeping a wide range of foods fresh.
However, the increasing presence of barrier packaging on the market is not just down to that fact that it helps to preserve food. The latest innovations in this kind of food packaging are also causing a healthy stir in the industry as a whole.
A great deal of research is being carried out into how we can decrease the number of materials that are needed to manufacture this kind of packaging and, in turn, make savings. There are ongoing studies into how to make it more lightweight, which would also make it cheaper to produce and easier to store and transport.
Furthermore, with a view to achieving a more sustainable alternative to existing packaging solutions, increasingly more recyclable barrier packaging is also being developed.
HOW DOES BARRIER PACKAGING HELP TO KEEP FOOD FRESH?
There are a number of reasons for food waste and this problem is not just an ethical one; it is also an economic and environmental issue. The OCU (Spanish consumers’ association) organised a debate on the subject, including an analysis of the reasons why so much food goes to waste. It is an issue that affects all sectors right across industry, from farmers through to family homes, including distributors, of course. According to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, 7.7 million tonnes of food goes to waste in Spain every single year. It is estimated that 40% of all edible products end up in the bin. Food that is no longer suitable for consumption forms a large part of this total and the reason tends to be poorly organised food purchases, meaning that it ends up going off before it can be consumed
Packaging quality plays an essential role in prolonging how long food can be stored and it is the reason why producers worldwide are carrying out research into barrier packaging.
Pre-prepared dishes are incredibly sensitive to the effects of oxygen. Cold storage and barrier packaging solutions with a protective, or modified, atmosphere can help to extend the shelf life of foods for up to several weeks. Barrier materials also help other products, such as snacks, to stay crunchier for longer.
When it comes to other products such as dairy produce, meat and fish, barrier packaging helps to keep them fresh and retain their organoleptic properties.
DO WE NEED BARRIER PACKAGING FOR ALL KINDS OF FOOD?
The degree of protection depends on the product. For example, pre-prepared dishes stored at room temperature require higher performance barrier materials than foods that need cold storage. We expect dishes of this kind to have a shelf life of around one-and-a-half to two years and this is quite simply impossible without the right kind of packaging.
Refrigerated foods with a shelf life of around two weeks, on the other hand, need cold storage to slow down the decomposition process. This does not mean that they can be stored without any barrier packaging at all; it simply means that a full protection barrier may not be necessary.
In other words, barrier materials always increase products’ shelf life, but there are quite significant differences between canned foods with a shelf life well in excess of other foods and room temperature preservation of fresh foods.
THE FIRST EVER 100% BIODEGRADABLE, MULTILAYER BARRIER PACKAGING
For over a year, SP Group has been working in conjunction with Nippon Gohsei, Ainia Technology Centre and a Spanish food mass market company to manufacture biodegradable and compostable structures. Biobaractive-JSIP is the first ever packaging that is multilayer and provides a barrier. What’s more, it is 100% biodegradable!
This packaging is made from multilayer materials and a gas barrier and it is designed for use with processed meats. Furthermore, its biodegradable and compostable properties make this a cutting-edge project. The aim is for these structures to extend the shelf life of processed foods beyond the current 30 days.
At SP Group, we believe that research and innovation underpin continuous progress in the quality of our packaging. We have a wide range of films that are manufactured using barrier materials to shield products from the external agents that could make them deteriorate sooner than necessary.