Dynamic modified-atmosphere packaging material

Dynamic modified atmosphere packaging improves shelf life and reduces food wastage.

Around the world, large volumes of fresh fruits and vegetables become waste along the whole supply chain. One of the reasons is that temperature variations during storage and transport affect the respiration rates of these ‘living’ products. Current packaging solutions are unable to respond to these variations by changing their permeability. At higher temperatures they become anaerobic, reducing product quality and shortening shelf-life. 

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has invented a packaging material that can adapt its oxygen and carbon dioxide permeability in parallel with the biological activity of the packaged product. At higher ambient temperatures the new material is able to increase its permeability properties, maintain the desired modified atmosphere and so also the planned shelf life. This new packaging material is particularly effective in storing fresh horticultural products during periods of considerable temperature variation. For example, a period that includes both cold storage (4 °C) and ambient temperature storage (25 °C).

The packaging material, a thermoplastic composition, has a hydrophobic polymer and a hydrophilic polymer. The hydrophilic polymer allows for an increase in the packaging’s gas-permeability characteristics when there is an increase in temperature and/or relative humidity. The packaging dynamically adapts to, for example, the respiration rate of the packed fresh product and changes in ambient temperature and humidity.

The material is already being used in, for example, the pear supply chain, where it helps maintain desired shelf-life and reduces waste.