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Changing Trends in Fresh Food Packaging, Testing and Analysis

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Upcoming Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in Fresh Produce Packaging

Over the past few years, the consumption of fresh produce in India has increased steadily. The fresh produce market in India is witnessing a noticeable change. The healthy Indian consumer wants to live a healthy life, choose sustainable products and improve their quality of life. With the rising urban population in India there is an increase in demand for fresh food packaging as well. New packaging technologies like active packaging, intelligent packaging and engineering science ensure flexibility in fresh produce packaging. In the recent times we have witnessed development in various packaging systems and technologies. These new packaging technologies can improve and extend the food shelf life while also improving quality. They are known to offer better food preservation and convenience benefits to the consumers. Intelligent packaging makes use of intelligent features like sensing, detecting, tracing, recording and communicating to aid extension of shelf life, improve food quality and safety, provide information, and issue warning about potential threats. Active packaging consists of absorbers and emitters that help in ensuring food quality, avoiding deterioration. Also, the popularity of eco-friendly packaging using biodegradable materials is on a rise. At this stage, food packing testing and food packaging audits are also conducted, to keep the quality of packaging in check. A survey also found that 71% of grocery shoppers strongly agree that healthier foods and beverages should use healthier packaging materials(Source: www.grocerydive.com).

Current Trend in Fresh Produce Packaging

Moreover, the demand has risen even more due to the COVID-19 situation, the reasons being, people are trying to stock up as much fresh food as possible for enough use, many touch points till it reaches the customer and the methods of transportation used. The government has raised its bar when it comes to food safety and regulation in fresh produce packaging, food packaging audit and customers have raised the bar in terms of what they are looking for. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has prohibited the use of packaging material made from recycled plastics that includes carry-bags for packaging, storing, carrying or dispensing food items. According to FSSAI, India generates a total of 95 lakhs tonnes of plastic waste per year. About 38 lakh tonnes of which remains uncollected and ends up in the dumps, water bodies and even in animal consumption. The FSSAI recommends manufacturers to explore the alternatives to plastics such as bio-plastic and biodegradable plastic. As per the new FSSAI norms, no food product can be labelled as ‘Fresh’ or ‘Natural’ without permission. Food manufacturers and suppliers will have to seek permission from FSSAI to use such words such as pure, natural, fresh, and authentic while describing products on their packaging along with a disclaimer about the use of words under the latest FSSAI mandate.

It is necessary that the packaging materials being used undergoes food packaging testing, analysis and audit so that the food that is packaged does not exhibit an unacceptable change in composition and is fit for human consumption.

You will hear people in Food Safety speak about how “Canned is low risk, frozen is medium risk and  fresh is the highest risk.”

So what are the specific challenges in fresh produce packaging and what makes food packaging testing, analysis and audit so important?

  • Requirement of equipment, machinery and technology that retains product texture and prevents product breakdown.
  • Increase in mechanisation that reduces employability.
  • Reducing food waste by increasing produce shelf life through sustainable packaging.
  • The lateral movement towards convenience and fresh cut items that are packaged smartly.
  • Consumer demand for more specific information related to the products to be labelled while packaging.
  • Complexities of operating large-volume and staple fresh-cut items.
  • Competing with canned and frozen products with respect to pricing.
  • Food safety and food safety regulations that are stringent for fresh and local produce packaging.
  • Meeting the increasing demand for freshly sourced food product market.

What are the opportunities in Fresh Produce Packaging?

Recognising new growth opportunities as they emerge is the key to securing a competitive edge in fast-expanding fresh produce packaging markets. At the same time, having safe and quality packaging is necessary, that can be achieved through having periodical fresh producing packaging testing and audit.

These are some of the opportunities that a fresh produce packaging organisation must tap into with respect to fresh food producers:

  • Packaging suitable for shipping fresh produce from farm to fork
  • Material for cushioning that is fresh produce type-dependent
  • Use of recyclable or returnable cases
  • Use of bulk packaging for wholesale buyers and smaller packaging for consumers
  • Modern produce packaging to reduce waste and increase shelf life
  • Protection against damage resulting from poor environmental control
  • Increasing health consciousness and awareness regarding consuming fresh food

Upcoming trends in Fresh Food Packaging

Food contact materials like PET, paper, aluminum, and polyvinyl chloride are in high demand because of their affordability, convenience and sustainability. Thus, they help in longer storage of the product. Some popular food contact materials that are being widely accepted are as follows:

  • Polypropylene – It is the fastest-growing food contact material being used in food packaging because of its durability as a plastic, chemical resistance and low cost. Its applications vary in different fresh produce packaging including fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. It doesn't react to liquids, acids, or bases so it is ideal for fresh food packaging. It is also safer to use Polypropylene, since it is easy to get it approved while a food packaging testing, analysis and audit process is carried out.
  • Polyethylene – Properties like low weight, stability, reusability, chemical resistance and resistance to moisture make it suitable for food packaging. In spite of its benefits, polythene and polythene-related products are not preferred due to environmental factors and some other limitations. While using Polyethylene it becomes essential to pass the packaging through a food packaging testing and audit process to ensure that it meets local and international standards related to food safety.
  • Biodegradable materials – Bio-based food packaging encourages the consumers to recycle and to use eco-friendly materials and methods too. Even though they are about 25% costlier than plastic, such sustainable methods are not only restricted to the food product but the entire food manufacturing lifecycle.

While some firms are looking forward to biodegradable plastics as the future of fresh produce packaging, some others use more traditional methods such as paper and cardboard cartons for packaging food items like corn and rapeseed. However, producers have to keep in mind that food packaging testing and audit while using biodegradable materials is necessary to evaluate packaging performance.

  • Aluminium – This is widely used for seafood packaging because it avoids the migration of moisture, oxygen and other gases, volatile aroma, as well as against the impact of light that is generally higher than any plastic laminate material.
  • Poly-Vinyl Chloride (PVC) – Provides a tamper-proof packaging. PVC is a more rigid plastic material that can maintain its shape better than PET and is ideally suited to enhance consumer & industrial products. The benefit of using PVC is the lower cost versus other materials but offers a high quality printing/finish. Quality control and safety in food packaging testing are of paramount importance while using PVC to ensure that the food stays intact.
  • Nanostructured materials – They are used as antimicrobial thin films, oxygen hunters, and gas-permeable composites. And, nanocomposite films are used to remove dirty air etc. Nanomaterials or Nanostructured food contact materials can improve the technical properties of materials in order to make them sturdier, more resistant to abrasion, and easier to process. These materials also have to undergo a quality check and food packaging audit to qualify for its use in food packaging.

Importance of Food Packaging Testing, Audit and Analysis - Why choose TÜV SÜD?

Food packaging industries need to ensure safe practices in food packaging by conducting a number of assessments, evaluations, laboratory tests on materials having food-contact. TÜV SÜD provides fresh produce packaging testing and audit analysis to provide transit-safe packages. This also helps in avoiding recalls, response time, logistics cost and at the same time gives brand recognition.

TÜV SÜD is a global leader in Food packaging safety management. Food packaging safety management includes testing and certification as a significant part of food quality management and food packaging certification is the way to build trust in your food packaging brand. Food packaging certification demonstrates a manufacturer’s strong commitment to safe manufacturing materials and processes. It helps protect and support food brands and its end consumers, giving them the confidence in your product safety and quality management. TÜV SÜD helps packaging manufacturers resolve the certification challenge and remove any apprehensions surrounding the requirements for both packaging manufacturers and food manufacturers. As an accredited and approved certification body, TÜV SÜD helps you get a credible food safety and food packaging certificate, aimed at improving food safety, legal compliance, quality and facilitating trade. Visit TÜV SÜD for more information on food packaging testing and food packaging audit.

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