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Colour-code labelling for continuous monitoring of quality and safety of packed chicken meat

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FreshInk (Colour-code labelling for continuous monitoring of quality and safety of packed chicken meat)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2015-08-31

The huge volumes of food waste have become a global problem. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food is annually wasted globally. Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere. 35% of this waste is avoidable as it is a result of products not being consumed in the prescribed life time. At present, quite conservative product expiry dates set by the food manufacturers leads to high quantities of avoidable food wastes and the negative impacts thereof. This is due to two main reasons: (i) technical limitations for determining shelf-life, as tests carried out are destructive, only a small sample can be used, which might not accurately represent the whole batch; (ii) as a precaution against potentially disastrous negative publicity that would result from clients consuming food that has gone bad. This situation results in food showing a shorter shelf-life than it actually has, being disposed of prematurely, contributing to huge amounts of food processed and channelled through food chains only to be thrown away.

Having identified an attractive business opportunity, and having developed a promising technological solution (PTC application submitted), the company CHIMIGRAF proposes the FreshInk project, which aims at assessing the business opportunity of a novel commercial colour-code label indicator method to monitor and show the freshness and deterioration of packed chicken breasts. The method builds on food labelling using an already validated freshness indicator which changes colour depending on the food’s freshness status. This label is printed with a pioneering ink formulation which provides a distinguishable and gradual indicator colour change according to chicken freshness loss. The solution will deliver a reliable means for consumers and retailers to get accurate, continuous information about the status of the fresh chicken meat they purchase and manage. This is expected to bring about an actual 25% reduction of packed chicken breasts waste, also contributing to reduce wastage of various non-renewable resources.

FreshInk’s concept represents a huge opportunity for CHIMIGRAF to develop an innovative solution to increase the shelf life, the quality, and the safety of fresh, perishable, chicken meat products. The concept’s principle has also the potential to be applied in other white fresh meat products, whose spoilage processes are similar to the spoilage process of chicken meat.

While the proposer CHIMIGRAF is confident that the innovation efforts will yield the desired outcomes and lead to a successful commercialisation, the objective of submitting the projecto to a SME-1 action was to reduce risks by undertaking a Feasibility Study. The positive results achieved at phase 1 permit CHIMIGRAF to further carry out the next step of the project, confirm the potential and scope of application of the new technology, to confirm their economic viability, to perform the necessary production line adaptations and industrial up scaling, and finally to demonstrate and prepare for commercialisation of the colour-code freshness indicator label with a view towards the commercialisation of the colour-code ink as a key component of the solution.
At phase I, Chimigraf undertook a Feasibility Study to reduce risks. This study was focused con four key areas: a) technical feasibility analysis, b) market analysis, c) stakeholder analysis, and d) business plan.

A feasibility assessment of the printing of the label has been carried out in Phase 1. Since the nature of the label material has a huge influence on the ink sensitivity and performance, a preliminary assessment of the most convenient label structures was sought. Two different label designs were evaluated and compared with validated labels printed at lab scale. Both industrial printed labels were useful as freshness indicators for packaged chicken meat products under a sensitivity and accuracy point of view, so the label design selection was also based on production cost estimations. The label cost – effectiveness was also validated. The price of the label will be €0.0065 so it can be manageable by the industry.

Regarding the market analysis, concept test, purchase behaviour of fresh packaged chicken, and purchase intention and price sensitivity were validated by a total of 400 consumers of 4 different countries. Freshness indicator concept obtained a high overall rate (7.84) the ease of understanding is the best rated characteristic of the concept (8.11/10). Additionally, 75% of consumers would choose a chicken tray with the freshness indicator label before than one without it.

The stakeholder analysis has been also performed. The FresInk indicator has best presented to the main chicken meat processors, and European big retailers. Meeting are still on going and a future pilot trial is foreseen.

Finally, a business plan has been elaborated. This business study has concluded that the new FreshInk indicator will allow Chimigraf to launch a new line that presents big opportunity, positioning them as leaders in a new, international, promising and growing market.
The overall aim of Chimigraf is to launch commercially viable, duly protected and appropriately certified FreshInk labels into the market. It will be useful to control freshness of packaged chicken meat products, such as chicken breast, thighs and wings. This is expected to bring about an actual 20% reduction of packed chicken breasts waste, also contributing to reduce wastage of various non-renewable resources that are used up in the production of this products.

Other potential impacts are listed below:

>Extension of the 25% of shelf-life (around 3 days for a current “use by” date of 14 days) of packed chicken breasts while avoiding safety risks, ultimately promoting and allowing longer “use by” dates.
>Enabling accurate freshness and safety information that will not only prevent needless wastage of safe food, but will also mitigate risks on human health associated to consumption of spoiled food.
>Easy, intuitive, customer-friendly labelling of meat, as the colour change related to quality and safety will be detectable by the naked eye and will be easy to interpret by the consumer.
>Competitive advantage for meat producers and retailers due to the value added to the product.
>Poultry meat producers can negotiate a lower and more accurate returns percentage with the supermarket
>Savings at retail and consumer level due to less food wasted and improved logistics management of food.
>Promotion of trust between producers-retailers and consumers.
>New means for retailers and societies to comply with EU waste reduction targets and regulations.
Freshness Indicator Concept