Next generation

by Lynn Petrak
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 meat case
When it comes to meat and poultry products, retailers are always on the lookout for what's new when it comes to packaging. 
 
When it comes to meat and poultry products, retailers are always on the lookout for what’s new when it comes to packaging.
 
Even in a marketplace that touts locally sourced foods, there is a sizable demand and growing capability for meat and poultry items with a longer shelf life and easier shipping across borders and continents. The advent of innovative materials and technology, along with the globalization of a variety of consumer products, including foods, is stretching the limits of extended shelf-life packaging.
 
In a new study, “Next Generation Packaging Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025,” the Washington, DC-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI) projects that the market for next generation packaging, which offers features including shelf-life extension, will grow at a rate of 6 percent within the next decade. This next generation packaging spans active packaging (including antimicrobials, gas scavengers and emitters), intelligent packaging (including sensors, indicators and tags) and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) to enhance quality and add value.
 
Several packaging equipment and material companies are working on such next generation packaging that allows for longer shelf life for the shipping and storage of meat and poultry products. Oxygen-scavenging technology, for example, is being enhanced with the use of sachets in products like jerky and, in development across various parts of the industry, certain polymers. The Spanish company NanoBioMatters has been working on an oxygen-scavenging additive for polymer-based materials called the O2Block. Other projects involve the use of ethylene scavenging in packaging material and the application of direct contact antimicrobial technology.
 
At the same time, alternative processing technologies like high pressure processing (HPP) of ready-to-eat meats in flexible packaging can extend life to 60 days or more, according to research released during this summer’s annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). In a session on packaging innovation used in processed meats, researcher Hossein Daryaei noted that HPP combined with MAP can extend shelf life while meeting consumer demand for natural and clean-label products.

 Blu Wrap
BluWrap packaging enables an extended shelf life and more natural shipping of fresh pork because of the nature of the packaging. 
 

Sea Change

 

This summer, the possibilities of next-generation, naturally-extended packaging for the meat and poultry industry went global – literally – with the shipment of fresh pork from Denmark to Australia, in a package that was not vacuum sealed.

BluWrap, based in San Francisco, California, was behind that shipment. The company provides naturally extended shelf life technology that utilizes patented oxygen management techniques and allows for “environmentally responsible” shipping via ocean freighters instead of airplanes, according to company information. Other benefits include reduced drip loss, increased yields compared to traditional vacuum packed shipments and lower material costs.

BluWrap packaging enables an extended shelf life and more natural shipping of fresh pork because of the nature of the packaging. Fuel cells are used to actively reduce and consistently monitor oxygen while the product is shipped in refrigerated containers. A consistent temperature is maintained and users are able to continually track temperature and oxygen through built-in sensors.

The recent shipment of pork from Europe’s largest pork producer, Danish Crown, from Denmark to Australia involved pork packaged in an all-natural controlled atmosphere environment, en route for a 56-day transport. The product was not frozen or packaged in vacuum packaging. Previously, the company tested land shipments of pork in Chile and the Netherlands.

“This first pork shipment opens significant new market opportunities for BluWrap,” says Mark Barnekow, BluWrap’s CEO. “Until now, our efforts have been focused on shipping seafood using ocean containers so that producers and suppliers can use a more environmentally friendly way to bring their product to market. With this successful shipment, we expect to thoughtfully extend our technology to include pork and look forward to working with other high volume proteins like chicken, beef, and lamb.”

Tom Petersen, senior manager of quality production at Danish Crown, was on hand in Denmark for the packaging and later, in Australia, when the product was opened there. “The pork shipped using the BluWrap packaging technology looked identical on the day of opening as it was the day we packed it, despite being 56 days in transit without any ice or freezing. Our Australian customer was extremely pleased with the color, texture and yields on the product throughout the entire process,” he reports.

The market for such shipments is already showing signs of growth, as consumers increasingly demonstrate interest in fresh versus frozen food, including proteins. BluWrap reports that customers in China and Japan have requested shipments of fresh pork from their foreign suppliers to various local markets. In the seafood sector, BluWrap recently partnered with a Norwegian executive to explore the use of the packaging technology in that company’s salmon industry.

Back in the US, BluWrap is listed on the US Food & Drug Administration’s “Green List,” which allows producers from around the world to use BluWrap technology to ship fresh seafood into this country. 

 
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