Four days. That’s how long we have to get food from the farm to the plate*. On the fifth day, the food we’ve laboured so hard to produce and pack dwindles into little more than a tax write-off.
Food is a perishable item.
It can only be sold when it’s fresh and attractive.
The industry is tightly controlled by laws and regulations that cover every aspect of the lifecycle of perishable food. Does it look as good on day four as it did on day one – when it was growing in the ground? Is it safe to eat (and how do we define “safe”)? Does it weigh as much as the packaging claims it does? And a whole lot more. We have all experienced the challenges that surround trying to supply a quality product within these tight guidelines while still turning a profit.
Fresh produce is alive. Even after it’s been harvested, peeled, chopped, and packaged, it breathes. That breathing allows carbon dioxide, ethylene, and water vapour to escape. As they escape, the product loses weight. And the faster these gases escape from the produce, the more quickly it decays. Once food has expired, it can no longer be sold. Even a slightly wilted lettuce, or an apple with the tiniest of wrinkles, has to be thrown out.
It’s literally money down the drain.
Keeping fresh produce – well, fresh – is a challenge. To make sure that food on the shelves remains as fresh and ready-to-buy as possible, those who work in the industry toil away for long, anti-social hours. As soon as the food is harvested, it needs to be prepared, packaged, and shipped. There’s no time to lose.
Distribution centres and packing outlets often structure shifts every day of the week – Saturdays and Sundays included – to make sure not a single day’s freshness is lost.
An easier way to keep produce fresh
Mapflex’s revolutionary modified atmosphere packaging food film dramatically reduces moisture loss in fresh produce. We carry out ongoing tests across the life of the product, measuring the atmosphere in the packaging of every kind of produce for which we supply packaging.
Our state-of-the-art technology measures the rate of respiration of the food in the packaging. This rate varies based on a range of factors which we will dig into in a lot more detail in future articles. Some of these include:
- the nature of the produce (eg: bananas vs butternuts);
- the season;
- the conditions surrounding production;
- the variety of the food … and more.
We record all of this data in a highly sophisticated (and completely confidential) database. We can then access the data to calculate the best packaging design for a particular quantity of a specific food.
Armed with this information, we can identify which solution best suits each scenario. Our machinery then makes incredibly accurate laser perforations in the material. These holes are typically so tiny that they’re almost undetectable with the naked eye. Yet the diameter, quantity, and spacing of the perforations make all the difference to the shelf-life of the food.
In fact, refining this part of the process can add as much as a full day to the shelf-life of some foods.
Consider of the saving in labour costs alone – not to mention the lower costs of weekday transport as opposed to shipping the goods on a weekend.
That extra day translates into more sales, too. Impulse buys based on the use-by date go up, because food bought today could, conceivably, be dished up tomorrow.
When not losing weight is a GOOD thing
Best of all, because the product loses less water than it would in regular packaging, it retains most of its weight. This means you not having to compensate as much for weight lost in shipping and on the shelf. Most of our packers report managing to pack a good deal more into the packaging than the label states – just to make sure that the product still weighs what it claims to weigh by the time it hits its sell-by date.
Mapflex packaging reduces that water loss, which reduces the weight loss, too. So you can ship less than before – without reducing the cost. Mapflex modified atmosphere packaging ensures that produce retains significantly more water than it would in regular packaging film.
It just makes sense.
Call us today on 021 530 6000 to find out just how much weight can be saved on the produce you pack – and how much longer it can last on the shelf. Or visit us at www.mapflexsa.co.za to discover more about our industry-leading range of Mapflex packaging solutions.
*Shelf-life varies depending on the nature of the produce. Four days is an average time period based on industry norms.