“Purposeful packaging”: It’s Fresh! optimizes fruit & veg shelf-life with innovative technology

“Purposeful packaging”: It’s Fresh! optimizes fruit & veg shelf-life with innovative technology

12 Dec 2018 --- A UK-based food technology company has created an innovative film packaging solution which significantly prolongs the life of fresh fruit and vegetables. As the latest addition to the It’s Fresh! product portfolio, the new Infinite “purposeful packaging” technology reduces food waste in supermarkets, in the supply chain and in the home. After three years in development, Infinite will soon be trialed on packs of berries in UK supermarket Morrisons.

Infinite is a new sustainable delivery system that utilizes a proprietary “active ingredient” that can be printed directly onto existing packaging for fruit, vegetables and even flowers. It is proven to prolong shelf-life and extend freshness and quality by absorbing the natural ripening hormone, ethylene.

Tests have proven that Infinite is more efficient at extending quality and freshness of fresh produce and more environmentally friendly than any alternative methods that are currently being used, according to It’s Fresh! This is because Infinite is non-invasive and can be used in packs of “naked” untreated or uncoated fruit.

“Purposeful packaging”
“The packaging of fruit & veg is a sophisticated and highly skilled industry, it does not exist merely to increase real estate for marketing purposes, but to protect and maintain freshness and quality during its journey through the supply chain and into the home,” Simon Lee, Co-Founder, It’s Fresh!, tells PackagingInsights.

Click to Enlarge“Without a mechanism to control the deterioration of freshness and quality – much of the fruit & veg we consume will be picked, packed, shipped, stored, merchandised and wasted before we have time to eat it,” he says.

“With Infinite, It’s Fresh! are not only ensuring that we can make use of the existing sophisticated packaging that successfully protects our fruit & veg by making it even more functional and purposeful, but we are also ensuring that our finite precious resources within the supply chain aren’t wasted as well, including water, labor and energy,” adds Lee.

Waitrose, Carrefour, Walmart, Albertsons and Safeways are just some of the big supermarkets already making use of It’s Fresh! technologies. Notably, a small postage-stamp sized filter that sits in the packaging and increases shelf-life.

“We anticipate that our customers will be switching over to the Infinite film system in due course,” says Lee. “However, it is not only the retailers that are using the It’s Fresh! technology, growers, exporters and pack houses all over the world are benefiting from this ground-breaking technology.”

Infinite will be trialed by its launch partner, Morrisons, in 2019. Like all other It’s Fresh! products, it will be available globally after the trial period.

This week It’s Fresh! announced the results of its latest series of trials, demonstrating how its technology prolongs the life of strawberries, blueberries, cherries and bananas in storage and in transit.

Independent trials on French strawberries this summer have seen excellent results, improving quality and life by nearly 50 percent over the control packs, according to It’s Fresh! The trials were managed by an independent French laboratory on behalf of Carrefour who already use the It’s Fresh! technology on other products within its range.

“We are delighted with the results and are in now in discussions to pilot the technology on Strawberries next season as well as trialing further cultivars to assess greater benefits,” comments It's Fresh! Director, Peter Durose.

BlueberriesClick to Enlarge
We import blueberries from all over the world in the UK to enable us to buy the fruit year-round – sourcing our berries from countries including Central and South America, Morocco and mainland Europe.

Shipments from Chile, for example, can be in transit for 3 to 4 weeks and 50 to 60 percent of blueberries are “graded out” once they arrive in the UK because they do not meet the strict quality standards.

Recent blueberry trials were conducted in Poland, a country which exports 25,000 tons of the berry each year, according to It’s Fresh! Those packed with It’s Fresh! stored over a six-week period had a reported 40 percent less waste than those without.

Cherry growers have similar struggles ensuring their fruit retains its freshness in transit. Growers in Greece conducted a three-week trial to measure whether the It’s Fresh! filters could help their cherries retain their bright color and firm texture.

The trial proved that It’s Fresh! filters gave cherries three days extra life and the grower is looking to include the filters for next season’s exports in May-July 2019.

Tests on bananas in Australia, where huge domestic transit distances mean that many batches are rejected upon arrival, found that the filters increased their life by 2 to 3 days.

“We're delighted with the trials and their outcomes. The results clearly show the advantage of the technology we've pioneered,” says Durose. “A huge amount of food gets wasted during import and export so anything that slows ripening can have a big impact.”

“Delicate fruit such as blueberries are a good example with 50/60 percent going off (being graded out) by the time they reach their destination. Our trial shows we can prolong the life of blueberries by 40 percent, which would make an enormous difference for growers, importers, supermarkets and ultimately consumers,” says Durose.

The big debate
“The UK is a nation of fresh fruit lovers and we are used to being able to buy our favorites all year round, whatever the season,” Lee tells PackagingInsights. “This creates huge challenges for farmers, importers and supermarkets globally to keep produce fresh in transit.”

Click to Enlarge“It is clear that the carbon footprint of Britain’s fresh fruit and veg consumption must be addressed and the new technology developed by It’s Fresh! provides a means of ensuring that far more fresh produce makes it to our shelves. There is immense pressure on growers and exporters to prevent their fresh produce ripening in transit and causing huge wastage,” he says.

“Ours is what we would call ‘purposeful packaging,’ which is genuinely helping to reduce food wastage and which will, in turn, reduce the amount of packaging needed overall as the produce lasts longer.”

“There is a big debate about food packaging at the moment, but the reality is that the fresh food industry does need packaging,” Lee concludes.

What next for It’s Fresh!? According to Lee, the company is already working on alternative ways to add value to different parts of the supply chain. This might involve printing onto alternative substrates such as paper, carton-board and plastic alternatives, he says, as well as looking at different delivery system formats.

By Joshua Poole

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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