Packaging is crucial for distributing fresh produce safely, maintaining its freshness and extending shelf life. However, we realize that packaging also takes a toll on the environment, with impacts varying from greenhouse gas emissions to soil contamination and thus our relentless effort to come up with the packaging of least negative impact while still protecting the produce with in.
With that in mind, Strauss, one of the largest Israeli food conglomerates, in its state of the art fresh-cut operation, producing its Ta'am Ha'Teva (Nature's flavour) branded line of product, made a decision to revisit its entire flexible packaging. The project span across almost three years and included testing of various films.
Together with the postharvest agronomist and the polymer engineer at ROP a new line of films was recently introduced, replacing the long-servicing, high-gauge (variable 60-70micron), hazy, blown polyethylene film that was used for several years.
The project, which was placed at the heart of Strauss's operational goals and was managed by the production plant together with the packaging procurement and quality assurance team, was looking to achieve several goals including: (1) Reducing the total amount of plastic used; (2) Improving presentation; (3) Reducing packaging cost and (4) Introducing packaging materials that are fully recyclable, these of course, with no compromise on the quality and shelf life of the packed salads and fresh leafy greens.
On a series of experiments carried out at ROP's postharvest lab in parallel with Strauss's QC testing facilities, as well as with external food-safety labs, the entire range of products were tested for its shelf life using the new film, named 'FC-SP/AF 50'. The experiments simulated the logistic chain and included, among others, washed romaine leaves, rocket leaves, mixed greens and shredded cabbage and carrot mix. The new film that is Cast Polypropylene-based surpassed all expectations.
The film gauge was reduced to 50 micron, representing up to 28% reduction in plastic weight. The film cost was not changed, despite the increase in resins prices globally. The reduction in gauge is also translated to saving on transportation and storage space as each roll now holds more impressions. "The film developed is super clear and it has exceptional antifog properties therefore the presentation is fantastic and the shelf life of the produce easily surpasses the 11 days declared on the 'Sell by date' printed on the packed salads" says Shay Zeltzer, Director of Postharvest at ROP-ltd. The film is a mono-polymer, recyclable, perfectly fits with Strauss's goal to reach 100% of packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025.