The added value of perishable food such as fruit and vegetables is significantly influenced by its shelf life, and preserving the freshness and integrity of this type of produce post-harvest is one of the most pressing considerations affecting the industry today.

We all know that Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is one of the most influential parts of the story – and one of the most important aspects of MAP is the micro-perforation technology used in creating the essential holes that allow the picked produce to continue breathing. This significantly extends the shelf life and reduces wastage throughout the supply chain, on retail shelves and in end user fridges too. In many cases, this longer shelf life can make the difference between profit and loss.

The process is, however, decidedly more complex than simply punching a few holes in the packaging. Different produce respires – and decays – at different rates. Modified Atmosphere Packaging combines the power of science and technology to deliver revolutionary products that work in harmony with the natural respiration of the produce, avoiding in-package anaerobiosis and prolonging shelf-life for up to two weeks. Imagine the difference that can make to your bottom line!

This game-changing packaging has a complicated design and manufacturing process that relies on a number of factors being optimised at the same time in order to meet the exact specifications required. The most critical of these are the perforations, which are produce-specific to allow the optimum respiration rate needed to naturally slow down the rate of decay.

There are two main methods for making these perforations – Needles and Laser.

Needle Perforation

Also sometimes called pin perforation, needle perforation is a mechanical process that produces larger holes, usually greater than 1mm in diameter. Cold needle perforation punches rough holes in the plastic film, leaving the material from the hole attached as a kind of flap, which can sometimes cover the hole again. Hot needle perforation is more effective, as it melts the plastic to form the hole, redepositing the melted plastic as a rim around the edge.

Needle perforation is cost effective in the short term, as it doesn’t require complex technical machinery, but the resultant holes are often irregular in shape and size. It is also a more time-consuming process.

Laser Perforation

Laser perforation technology allows for product-specific sizing and spacing of holes to create an ideal atmosphere within the packaging and significantly prolong shelf-life.

Unlike mechanical perforation methods, laser perforation vaporises a very small, well-defined point on the packaging material, creating consistently-sized and spaced holes that are sealed at the edges.

Perfotec MAP technology measures the respiration rate of each individual batch of vegetables on-farm, calculates the ideal perforation, and uses a very precise laser perforator to make the correct-size holes. Our machines operate at the optimum speed in order to guarantee the consistency of both the laser strength and the hole size.

Mapflex are recognised specialists in modified atmosphere packaging. We ensure the right films and packaging methods are used to maximise the benefits of equilibrium modified atmosphere (EMA). Contact us for tailored packaging solutions and modified atmosphere packaging products specifically suited to your fresh produce needs.