Avoiding the Bulge in Fresh Produce: Part 2

Fresh cut apple slices in tray with lidding film bulging at the seams.
Above: In the packaged produce world, a bulging package is a sure sign of something gone wrong. All foods produce gases and when this gas cannot escape from the sealed packet, it accumulates inside and causes the package to bloat.

In my initial blog post, Fresh Produce Trends: Avoiding The Bulge, I explained how four generations of consumers are turning to healthier food choices at snack and meal time as a part of an overall goal to live a healthier lifestyle and attempt to avoid the bulge. This rise in healthy eating habits has driven vegetable and fruit producers to adjust their focus toward single-serve fresh-cut convenience options.

In this post, I'll delve into one of the biggest challenges brands encounter when attempting to deliver fresh, single-serve fruits and veggies to consumers. The goal, of course, to bring perishable goods to retailers’ shelves quickly, and in the best possible condition in order to delight customers. I'll also discuss a packaging innovation that can extend freshness to last well through the fresh supply chain.

Challenge: proper Respiration

We all know how quickly fresh cut apple slices begin to brown and baby carrots look dried out and wilted. The key to keeping these and other packaged veggies and produce fresh is making sure those items are allowed to breathe - or respirate - while enduring the rigors of the supply chain and sitting patiently on-shelf awaiting a customer to purchase. 

Individual vegetables and fruits have their own respiration needs in order to retain peak freshness. Shelf-life can be prolonged quite easily by allowing for proper respiration of a single product. But perhaps the biggest challenge that brands face is when combining multiple fruits, vegetables, and/or other snacking foods in a multi-compartment container. Since each item respires at a different rate, this can create issues with traditional packaging approaches. Gasses can build up and package bulging occurs. In this case, avoiding the bulge comes down to allowing for customized respiration of each item or compartment.

bulging-lidding-film-packaging

In the case above, we can clearly see that the lidding film is bulging from the tray, because there has likely been no accommodation for the product's need to breathe. On the surface, combining cheese cubes and apple slices doesn’t seem to be particularly problematic. But when combined and hermetically sealed in a container with no allowance for oxygen exchange, the result is bulging lidding that can lead to seal failures and excelerated spoilage. 

solution: a new lidding film approach

The good news is: the cost associated with bulged lidding is avoidable as packaging solutions to help solve this problem are not cost prohibitive. One method that will allow for proper respiration of each compartment is by adding controlled depth laser micro-perforations in the lidding film. Controlled depth perfing allows for proper product respiration of each item in their individual compartment for an optimal Oxygen Transmission Rate (OTR) and can prolong freshness and efficacy, adding days to your product's shelf life.

Say goodbye to the Bulge

Avoiding the bulge can be seen from two perspectives - whether you're a consumer looking for healthier food options, or a produce company looking to delight your customers with the freshest single-serve snacks possible. As a fresh produce company, you've gone to great measures to ensure your products are picked and processed at the peak of freshness. Why not take the extra step so your products arrive on-shelf and in the customers hands maintaining that level of freshness?

Outlook Group can help solve your fresh produce packaging challenges and assist your lidding applications to achieve improved shelf-life, reduced spoilage, and win consumers' hearts. Contact me today to discuss flexible packaging and lidding options.

Jim Woller - Outlook GroupAuthor: Jim Woller
Market Development Manager, Flexible Packaging & Folding Cartons
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920.727.7954