The food packaging process plays an essential role in boosting the visual appeal of a product and also in preserving the contents.
These days there are different food packaging systems available and we can choose the most appropriate one depending on the type of preservation needed.
Each packaging process has different criteria in terms of pressure, temperature and time which must be adjusted accordingly to achieve the best results
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD PACKAGING
Before we explain the different types of food packaging, we need to outline what the food packaging process is and why it is so important in the current market.
Food packaging is the process that protects the product during transportation, keeping its properties intact for as long as possible until final consumption.
Aesthetics play a key role in food packaging because it needs to be appealing to influence the consumer into buying the product.
Of course, all food packaging processes must comply with minimum food preservation standards.
The food must remain edible for as long as possible, and it goes without saying that its nutrients and organoleptic properties must remain intact.
FOOD PACKAGING SYSTEMS
New technologies in the sector mean different packaging systems can be used depending on the type of product and preservation and transport needs.
SP Group always selects the right food packaging system for each product, bearing in mind the factors involved in maintaining the highest quality standards.
Hot filling packaging takes place at high temperatures, hence its name. It is ideal for both solid food and liquids and is used to preserve all of the product’s properties and extend its shelf life, without using any preservatives or chemicals.
It offers many benefits:
- Lower costs compared to other systems.
- Keeps the product’s properties intact.
- No preservatives or chemicals required.
- It is a sustainable process.
MANIPULATING THE ATMOSPHERE INSIDE PACKAGING TO EXTEND SHELF LIFE
The shelf life of food can be extended by replacing the air surrounding the product with a gas mixture.
There are different techniques depending on the gases used and the process in question, the main ones being:
- Controlled atmosphere packaging: the concentrations of gas surrounding the product are controlled and regulated during storage.
- Modified atmosphere packaging: the concentrations of gas surrounding the product are altered initially and then cannot be changed.
These processes are more sustainable because they keep products fresh for longer without needing to use artificial preservatives.
Vacuum packaging is probably the most popular technique of them all. The product will gradually perish over time but much more slowly.
It consists of removing all of the air in the packaging but, unlike modified atmosphere packaging, it is not replaced by other gases.
This method reduces oxidation and considerably slows microbial growth. The taste, texture and properties of the product all remain unaltered.
Vacuum packaging is often used for coffee and tea, rice, herbs and spices, vegetables, cheese and cold meats, and many other foods.
Another food packaging system in which temperature is a key factor is chilled packaging.
This process is mainly used for raw food or produce that has been scalded first for a few minutes.
HIGH PRESSURE PROCESSING
One of the most innovative packaging techniques is HPP, or High Pressure Processing.
High Pressure Processing consists of sealing the packaging and then subjecting the product to constant levels of high hydrostatic pressure for a few minutes.
This process eliminates any trace of microorganisms and considerably extends shelf life, while keeping nutrients and properties intact.
PRESSURE, TEMPERATURE AND TIME
A number of factors have an impact on the final results of each process:
Most of the flexible materials used for packaging, like PET, have a maximum transition temperature of around 70ºC. They require specific techniques to prevent deformation before and after filling. High pressure processing also takes place in low temperature conditions.
When manipulating the atmosphere inside packaging, the oxygen must be replaced by other gases as quickly as possible.
High pressure processing is also affected by the time factor, since hydrostatic pressure is applied for a set time period.
This is a key factor in systems like high pressure processing. It must be evenly applied to the whole product in all directions for it to be a success.
SEALING DWELL TIME
This refers to the amount of time the heating elements are in contact with the material and it affects packing speed, peel adhesion, seal strength and other criteria.
Moreover, the food needs to be protected to avoid problems like deterioration, dehydration, leakage tampering, contamination, compression, permeability to oxygen, water vapour, bacteria, etc.
PLASTIC FOOD PACKAGING SOLUTIONS
SP Group chooses the best materials for each packaging process and the right solution depending on the type of product:
- Rigid materials for thermoformable packaging: sustainable and durable transparent packaging solutions to provide maximum protection as well as an attractive design.
- Thermoformable materials for vacuum packaging: strong and durable, they are ideal for vacuum packaging and help reduce food waste. They are also transparent and have excellent preservation attributes.
- Flexible materials for packaging: they serve as excellent barriers to effectively protect and preserve food.
- Flexible materials with metalised substrates for packaging: ideal for food and non-food products that require an attractive design. They protect the goods until final use, are pliable and durable and they act as a barrier against light.
- Flexible materials with aluminium for packaging: they meet the strictest food preservation and safety standards by offering a complete barrier to light, moisture and aroma.
SP Group can also advise you about the best packaging solutions for your goods. Contact us and together we will choose the best materials for the safest, most effective packaging for your needs.