In today’s era of sustainability, rising ingredient and energy prices, and climate-driven food poverty, reducing waste by extending shelf life is more imperative than ever.
To address these multi-faceted pressures, Campden BRI has launched a new e-book: Maximising Shelf Life in which its experts share valuable insights on how the combination of packaging and processes need to be optimised to reduce waste and increase shelf life, while maintaining consumer confidence without compromising product safety or quality.
Studies by climate-action NGO WRAP from the last decade suggest that approximately 50% of consumer food waste can be prevented simply by extending the shelf life of products. The World health Organisation puts this into context. Global reversal of food waste could save enough spoiled food to feed two billion people worldwide.[i]
Microbial profiling, super-chilling, heat pasteurisation and modified atmosphere packaging are just of a few of the preservation techniques that food and beverage processors can adopt. Yet, with so many different quality, waste, sensory, taste and production factors to consider, uncovering the best and most sustainable option to extend the shelf life of individual fresh, frozen, ambient and bottled brands can feel like an endurance test in itself.
Given the volume of interconnecting factors, Campden BRI’s Maximising Shelf Life e-book explains step-by-step the approach food and beverage processors need to consider for any shelf-life extension project. Including how its scientific processing and packaging experts can assist with uncovering, validating, reviewing, proving and implementing a shelf life strategy aligned to individual product applications that meet HACCP and country-specific food safety legislation.
The e-book also features several proven case studies, including:
Verifying the effect of ingredient age of raw produce and how this alters the microbiological characteristics of Coleslaw, impacting shelf life
Demonstrating how superchilling prawns helped Lyons Seafoods boost product shelf life while simultaneously reducing water and electricity consumption by 20%
Proving to Innocent Drinks the microbiological stability achieved by High Pressure Processing vegetable juices.
The packaging paradox
For FMCG brands switching to more sustainable packaging, for instance composite materials or plant-based formulations to minimise environmental impact, these risks also need to be carefully weighed up. Recyclability is only a small element of the packaging waste and circular economy landscape. Rigorous independent tests can help to measure the performance in relation to shelf life, as well as ensuring compliance with food contact materials regulations in-place to safeguard consumer health.
Despite every best ethical intention, processors need to look beyond the smoke and mirrors of ‘sustainable packaging’. For instance, if the packaging material allows gases, moisture, light and microbial contaminants in, then it inevitably shortens shelf life, leads to higher food waste and the squandering of valuable resources. Consequently resulting in a far bigger carbon footprint.
Although packaging suppliers typically perform their own tests, the responsibility rests with manufacturers to ensure that each packaging substrate is the right one for the food and beverage type, storage conditions and protects against contamination.
Many tests determine whether packaging is fit for purpose. Campden BRI advocates testing packaging over every product’s shelf life. The rational explains Campden BRI’s microbiological expert, Linda Everis is threefold. To mitigate the transfer of constituents; to ensure pack and seal integrity is maintained and testing barrier properties from microorganisms. “Given the number of new materials entering the market, many with little historical data, testing the material in conjunction with the product to ensure they are both compatible over the product’s shelf-life is vital.”
When working with or investigating a new material, shelf-life studies should be performed on both the packaging and product.
Campaigns to aggressively reduce food waste by extending shelf life can, if not properly validated, lead to deeper food safety issues. In order to reduce the environmental and social costs of food and beverage waste, Campden BRI advises processors embarking on any shelf life project to always deploy sound scientific principles.
Despite the large amount of historical shelf life test data, independent tests for each product application will always be the most robust methodology as it balances all the relevant formulation, manufacturing, distribution, packaging and storage factors.