The entire food industry supply chain is facing several challenges. More novel eco-friendly packaging solutions are needed because current environmentally friendly materials have poor shelf life protection properties. Food waste is another concern. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, prolonging shelf life is the most effective way to reduce food waste. Safer packaging is also needed to safeguard consumers and their changing consumption habits. The demand for smaller portions and packed and ready-to-eat food is increasing. A longer shelf life means less contaminated, safer food.
Bringing new technology to the market
The EU-funded Cronogard project developed a patented technology that gives birth to a product family for treating raw materials used in the food packaging industry. This product line extends foods’ shelf life by up to 200 %. “We transformed a laboratory proof of concept into a series of industrialised products that are ready for the market,” notes coordinator Célia Gavaud. “Starting from lab tests on substances capable of extending shelf life in a natural way, we worked hard on application techniques and finally delivered products that can be directly used in packaging manufacturers’ processing lines without needing special machinery or changes to the consolidated processes.” Traditional polymeric materials for packaging food protect it from attack by external agents but are not very effective at preventing the development of biofilm. The project’s innovation reduces the formation of biofilm by as much as 50 % on packaging surfaces. The protective and antibacterial activity inhibits the agents responsible for decay from forming inside the package. It is based on a compostable, recyclable filler developed to work with both plastics and cellulose, greatly enhancing these materials’ protective properties. The product preserves food even after the consumer opens the package thanks to its tray’s reclosable lid.
Preserving the integrity of food
The family of products are fully compliant with European regulations on food contact and packaging-permitted substances and processes. “This is noteworthy, considering that in recent years many new shelf life extension methods could not proceed to the commercialisation stage because they failed to match regulatory constraints,” explains Gavaud. The entire value chain stands to benefit. Packaging manufacturers add value to their products, usually considered commodities. Retailers and food manufacturers increase the quality of packaged food and decrease waste. Thanks to a reduction in food waste and in the use of non-recyclable and eco-unfriendly substances, consumers enjoy safer, high-quality products. Project partners have signed several memorandums of understanding with Italian and global leaders in the packaging sector to develop pilot productions according to their specific needs. “The application of fruit and vegetables on cardboard trays has successfully passed the final tests on behalf of a packaging manufacturer and a large retailer, and we expect that it will soon be adopted commercially,” adds Gavaud. “The CronogardTM product improves shelf life while preserving the characteristics of fresh food, keeping the colour, flavour and texture intact,” concludes Gavaud. “It meets the needs of both the fresh food and food packaging industries.”
CronogardTM, food, packaging, shelf life, food packaging, packaged food, biofilm