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New corrugated cardboard for active packaging to extend shelf-life of fresh fruits and vegetables

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FRESHTRAY (New corrugated cardboard for active packaging to extend shelf-life of fresh fruits and vegetables)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2017-06-30

We are SAECO, a Spanish SME founded in 1979 in Molina de Segura, Murcia (ES) dedicated to the manufacture of corrugated cardboard containers and packaging solutions. One of our strategic markets is the agricultural sector, particularly the fresh F&V (fruits and vegetables) sector, to whom we supply corrugated cardboard trays and boxes in different sizes and formats. Currently, 24% of our production is sold to this sector, which means that we understand very well its needs and challenges.
A common issue to all our agricultural sector’s customers, is that they are dealing with rapidly perishable fresh products, which implies that a share of their produce is lost along the supply chain (14% of the EU28 F&V production are yearly lost in the post-harvest, processing and distribution stages). This, besides meaning an economic loss, also reduces their operational capacity and limits their bargaining power.
To face this problem, we have developed – in collaboration with experience researchers – FreshTray, an active cardboard packaging solution to extend fresh F&V (fruits and vegetables) shelf-life. It consists on a corrugated carboard tray – where the F&V are normally packed and transported – with an active coating applied over it.
During the SME-Instrument Phase I, our objective has been to assess the technical, commercial and economic viability of our project:
- Technical assessment: definition of the best active coating formula, in order to obtain longest extension of the shelf-life.
- Commercial assessment: study of our target market, users, competitors and stakeholders; and definition of a commercialisation and IPR strategy.
- Economic assessment: pricing strategy and elaboration of an economic analysis for the first five commercialisation years.
As an overall conclusion, we can affirm that FreshTray is technically, commercially and economically viable. It has the potential to boost the growth of our company SAECO and to increase the competitiveness of the EU28 F&V sector. Besides, it is aligned with EU28 goals such as halving food waste by 2030.
During the SME-Instrument Phase I we have assessed the technical, commercial and economic feasibility of our project FreshTray:
- Technical assessment: we have optimised the active coating’s formula, determining the minimal dosage and composition required to obtain the longest extension of the fresh F&V shelf-life. To do so, we have tested different active coatings’ formulas at lab scale. The ones that performed better, were tested under real industrial conditions (applied over trays loaded with F&V and refrigerated for 28 days). The microbiological load of the fresh F&V was assessed during these days and compare against a control. As a result, we successfully obtained an active coating’s formula able to extend the fresh F&V shelf-life by 30%.
- Commercial assessment: we have carried out a market research in which we have (i) determined the key facts and trends of the packaging sector (our target), (ii) identified our target users (a shortlist with 10 target companies has been outlined), (iii) analysed the state-of-the-art of the active packaging and FreshTray’s competing solutions, (iv) described the key stakeholders for FreshTray and (v) outlined a PESTLE and a SWOT analyses. Besides, we have elaborated a commercialisation strategy for the first five commercialisation years. We have reviewed the EU regulation in terms of food packaging safety standards and have positively assessed that FreshTray complies it. Finally, we have carried out a risk analysis with a mitigation and contingency plan.
- Financial assessment: we have set the selling price of FreshTray based on the cost of manufacturing a regular cardboard tray and the added cost of the active coating. An economic forecast for the first five commercialisation years has been outlined.
FreshTray is an innovation that shifts one step forward the active packaging’s state-of-the-art. Unlike other solutions, ours is fully integrated in both: the manufacturing process of the corrugated cardboard trays and the regular tasks carried out by the agents along the F&V supply chain. Therefore, it does not involve the adoption of any additional step, which reduces the implementation costs and fosters its market uptake.
This project will bring important benefits for our company SAECO, for the fresh F&V sector and for the society as a whole.
Focusing on our company, FreshTray is a project that will push forward its growth and internationalization. We expect to have sold by the fifth year of commercialization more than 40 Mm2 of FreshTray in Spain and 30 Mm2 in the foreign countries included in our commercialisation plan.
Shifting the focus towards the fresh F&V sector (our target), we will put at their disposal a cost-effective solution to extend their F&V shelf-life. Thanks to our innovation, companies engaged in the growing and commercialisation of F&V will increase their benefits since they (i) will add value to their produce and differentiate them from the competence (↑freshness, ↓perishability) (ii) will be able to export them longer distances, (iii) will gain bargaining power (no need to sell the produce within the same day regardless of the low prices perceived) and (iv) will loss less amount of F&V along the supply chain.
Finally, the society as whole will benefit from our innovation since we will reduce the loss of F&V. Currently, 14% of the EU28 F&V production are yearly lost in the post-harvest, processing and distribution stages. Food loss, besides raising ethics issues, is also an environmental issue. It implies that all the resources spent to produce that food – water, land and labour among others – are also wasted, as well as greenhouse gases are emitted in vain. Therefore, the extension of the F&V shelf-life that our innovation can achieve, will contribute to reduce the amount of fresh F&V lost in the UE28 and consequently the wastage of resources.
SAECO's premises where the corrugated cardboard packaging solutions are manufactured