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Active and biodegradable multilayer structure for dehydrated or dried food packaging applications

Final Report Summary - BIOACTIVELAYER (Active and biodegradable multilayer structure for dehydrated or dried food packaging applications)

Executive Summary:
Dried baby food is particularly susceptible to oxidative rancidity. For this reason, it is necessary to pack dried baby food using advanced packaging technologies such as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). It is very important to ensure that the residual oxygen remaining into the package’s head space is lower than 0.2% in volume. Because of these special requirements, dried baby food is usually packed in a can, or using a flexible laminated packaging. BIOACTIVELAYER project’s goal has been to provide a biodegradable alternative to flexible laminated packaging for products with high barrier requirements, such as dried baby food. BIOACTIVELAYER’s new packaging concept provides an active, cost-effective, and fully biodegradable solution to the dried food industry. The newly developed material will maintain the product’s quality and assure food safety, providing a shelf-life of up to 24 months.
BIOACTIVELAYER pouches consist in a biodegradable multilayer structure with the required properties for the packaging of dried food products using MAP technology. This development could replace current structures based on fossil materials and aluminium, which are non-renewable. As it was demonstrated during the Consumer Panel’s assessment performed during this project, BIOACTIVELAYER’s pouch increases consumer acceptance of its content through its renewable origin and reduced environmental impact.
The first stages of the project consisted on the development the different materials needed to produce each layer of the pouch’s multilayer structure. To be more specific, new coatings were developed to improve paper properties, new composite materials were developed to obtain oxygen and moisture barrier layers, and an active compound was included in the final package’s structure in order to remove residual oxygen in the package’s head space. Once each material had been designed to achieve the best performance of each layer, the optimized solutions were selected and integrated into a multilayer structure. Several prototypes were produced at laboratory and pilot scale. These prototypes lead to a final optimized multilayer structure. With the optimal pouch’s structure elucidated, all the production processes (i.e. lamination and extrusion) for the different materials needed in the fabrication of the final packaging solution were successfully up-scaled.
BIOACTIVELAYER’s final biodegradable packaging solution was subjected to food packaging trials, food contact safety assessment, and biodegradability studies. Furthermore, a study on retailer and consumer’s acceptance of this new sustainable packaging solution was conducted.

Project Context and Objectives:
Moisture represents a key requirement for microbial growth, and therefore for microbial food spoilage. Drying is still nowadays a commonly used food preservation technique to extend a product’s shelf life, maintaining quality, nutritional, and safety attributes required by customers. Dried food has many advantages when compared to other foods: cheaper transportation costs, longer storage life, and ease to use. Demand of these foods is forecasted to grow, reaching 148 Mton globally during 2016. Dried baby food market also reflects this trend. This growth in the volume of dried food demand is translated to a huge production of dried food packaging, and when these packages are disposed of, a huge increase of their associated wastes.
Dried food is usually packaged either on can or in multilayer flexible plastic materials. Furthermore, the most appropriated preserving technique for dried food is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology. Currently, there are different flexible laminated packaging solutions capable of withstanding MAP. A typical commercial structure for this type of flexible packaging solutions is PET/Al/LLDPE. However, these packaging solutions are based on fossil-fuel plastics (non-renewable source). These packaging solutions are usually non-biodegradable, and also include aluminium in their composition, which difficult the recycling or valorization of such packages.
Some economic data extracted from BIOACTIVELAYER project show that a 5% substitution of conventional materials used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) applications would reduce over 300.000 tons of non-renewable plastic packaging waste disposal. Bio-based materials are a promising alternative in the packaging industry for substituting conventional multilayer materials, and for reducing their disposal. BIOACTIVELAYER consortium identified several promising bio-based materials and different processing technologies that combined would lead to the development of multilayer biodegradable structures for highly demanding packaging applications. This new packaging solution can provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to materials currently used in packaging when using MAP technology, without compromising dried food shelf-life.
The main objective of BIOACTIVELAYER project is to develop a packaging solution which will provide a completely renewable and biodegradable multilayer structure with the required properties for dried baby food packaging applications. This development could replace structures based on aluminium foil and, in addition, it will enhance consumer acceptance of packaged products through its renewable origin and reduced environmental impact. This solution will consist on a sustainable heat sealable flexible multilayer structure with high barrier and mechanical properties. The novel structure will be based on biodegradable polymers with novel and active properties, that will maintain the product’s quality and assure food safety, reaching a shelf-life of 24 months.

Project Results:
The technical work performed during the second period of BIOACTIVELAYER Project has focused in the optimization of the developments that started during first period in WP1, WP2 and WP3. Moreover, work of WP4 and WP5 regarding the performing of the whole multilayer structures and final packaging validation was also completed. Different processing routes and structures were evaluated in order to provide a completely renewable and biodegradable pouch for dried baby food applications.
Most of the work in this WP was carried out during the first period of the project (mid-term report). During the remaining period of this WP, the work performed has focused on the optimization of different coated papers with improved moisture barrier properties using biodegradable polymers. At the conclusion of the second reporting period, WP1’s target of developing the best biodegradable coated paper solution of the external layer of the package had been fulfilled.
During the second period of WP2, work has focused on the development and optimization of oxygen barrier structures laid out in first period of the project. Amorphous poly (vinyl alcohol) (HAVOH) and regenerated cellulose were selected as the most appropriate materials for oxygen barrier requirements. The introduction of PUFAs as oxygen scavengers was studied in order to minimize oxygen present in the package’s head space. In order to optimize the best formulation of the active agent, several active compounds in different concentrations were evaluated. In addition, several strategies for the introduction of the oxygen scavenger within the package’s structure were assessed.
Most of the activity in WP3 (preparation and analysis of composites) took place in the first period of the project. During the second period of WP3, the main emphasis was on the completion of testing and reporting of the properties of the biodegradable composite materials produced during the first reporting period. The key properties under investigation were moisture barrier and mechanical properties, and how these properties could be influenced by the dried baby food, to achieve the packaging requirements for this product. A desk-based study was performed on the biodegradability and food contact safety of composite ingredients.
WP 4 has focused on the implementation of multilayer coatings onto a paper substrate. These multilayer coatings have been optimized to minimize material consumption and global structure’s thickness while fulfilling the required properties for dried food packaging. For this purpose, and to provide oxygen and water barrier to the overall structure, different processing techniques and biodegradable or compostable materials were studied. This work package has been fully developed during the second period of the project.
WP 5 has focused on up-scaling trials for the production of the novel biodegradable packaging solution developed in the previous WPs. In this WP, biodegradable pouches were produced with the newly developed flexible multilayer material. The overall performance of these pouches for the packaging of dried baby food was evaluated. During WP5, the performance of the new biodegradable packaging solution compared to conventional flexible packaging for dried food was also evaluated. This work package has been fully developed during the second period of the project.
The objective of this WP was to describe and to accomplish dissemination activities and to manage the potential exploitable foreground generated within the project. This was accomplished through the diffusion of project activities, and the evaluation of potentially protectable results arising from the project. It was considered to publish a scientific article on "Food packaging and shelf-life" journal, its publication is expected on march 2017.

Potential Impact:
BIOACTIVELAYER’s final results are:
A multilayer structure based on biodegradable polymers with novel and active properties, capable of achieving shelf life of 24 months. This newly developed structure complies with the requirements for dried food packaging identified in BIOACTIVELAYER’s proposal:
• Low permeability to oxygen (<1 cc/m2 day bar) and water vapour (<1 g/m2 day): Low oxygen permeability has been achieved (<0.05 cc/m2 day bar), permeability values of 5-6 cc/m2 day bar for both, carbon dioxide and water vapour, were achieved. These values are slightly higher than those targeted. However, these values are much lower than those of current biodegradable flexible packaging materials.
• Residual oxygen remaining into the package’s head space is lower than 0.2% in volume: Residual oxygen in the package has been minimized by adding an oxygen scavenger into the packaging structure. This scavenger is highly effective, reducing oxygen content in the package from 21% to 15-16%, when packaging using air instead of MAP technology.
• The developed multilayer material fulfils the mechanical requirements for the design of a dried food pouch. In addition, the new biodegradable material is resistant to fats. Moreover, the opacity of the material will guarantee an optimal conservation of the package’s content, by avoiding light induced food oxidation processes.
• Final materials comply with European Food safety regulations, facilitating the market launch of this innovative packaging solution.
• Waste management: The final packaging material comply with biodegradability standards.
From all this outstanding properties, the impact of BIOACTIVELAYER project and the newly developed biodegradable solution for dried food packaging has been evaluated considering several aspects:
• Economic: The use of the biodegradable food packaging will promote SMEs to compete for a new and obvious market potential. SMEs will be able to improve the efficiency of their core business by reducing the environmental impact. The outcome of the project will be followed by the introduction of a new packaging solutions for a diverse range of products, combining the new packaging concept with high value added environmentally friendly products.
• Political: contribution to the Lead Market Initiative (LME), launched by the European Commission in 2006 in order to bring new products or services onto the market. There are six important markets included in this initiative, one of them being the bio-based products, and a strong interest to find out where bio-based products can substitute products based on other raw materials.

• Environmental: biodegradable packaging is usually a bio-based product and thus neutral in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, this type of packaging leaves a smaller ecological footprint, i.e. generate less waste, and use less energy and water. The waste management cost of the new biodegradable packaging solution will be around 0.15 € lower than that of currently non bio-based multilayer packaging solutions.

• Societal: the project can contribute to the enhancement of awareness in consumers about the use and abuse of packaging materials. It will influence and promote to buy food products packaged in a more sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. The consumer panel carried out during the project showed a clear consumer´s intention to buy sustainable packaging instead of conventional non-sustainable packaging solutions.

List of Websites:
Other contact address:
General Project:
Mr. Lefteris Tourasanidis
Project technical coordinator:
Ms. Miriam Gallur