Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic changes to the buying patterns of consumers, the value of Air Products’ Freshline™ solutions
were highlighted as a key aspect of the success of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). By using products packaged in this particular way, consumers have peace of
mind that the products will stay fresh for longer naturally, thus enabling them to visit the stores less frequently.
Besides extending the shelf life of food products, MAP also plays a further role to maintain the texture and taste. It is often referred to as gas flushing in the industry as
the high-purity single gas or the gas mixture creates an atmosphere around the food that acts as a protective layer. The use of MAP was first introduced in the 1930’s,
and the meat industry predominantly benefitted from this way of extending the shelf life of food products for longer periods of time. Through the years, more products
and various atmospheric gases were adopted for this form of packaging.
Changing the way food is prepared and stored
Over the years, an increased number of manufacturers realised the need to change the way food is stored and prepared. There are many reasons why this change
was necessary such as a change in eating habits and lifestyle as well as the need to ensure that the products are free from contamination. The COVID-19 pandemic
has highlighted this specific benefit.
An improvement in packaging technology was also a crucial aspect to support food manufactures. Over time, more of the big retailers started making use of central
distribution facilities, ultimately leading to a solution where food can be stored in a modified atmosphere that allowed the food to stay fresher for longer. The increased
effect of globalisation and the need to move products over long distances, also called for drastic changes and improvements in the preparation, packaging, transportation
and storage of food.
Highlighting the benefits of this innovative form of packaging
Pregie Maistry, Specialty Gas Sales Manager at Air Products, explains that they have seen a significant increase in the sales of Freshline™ over the years as more and
more manufacturers discovered the benefits of atmospheric packaging.
Maistry shares that there are a number of benefits that they have observed with customers. “The shelf life of products can increase between 50 and 500%, which
holds many advantages for manufacturers. There is a definite improvement in the utilization of labour and equipment as the flattened product peaks allows longer
packing runs. Due to the MAP packaging, there is an enhancement of the visual aspect of the products which makes it more attractive to the consumer.”
According to Maistry, many of their customers have also commented that the sealed packs prevent drip and odours. Customers would rather buy a product that
is packed safely, which is achieved by MAP, and this packaging also plays a role in minimising waste and spoilage.
With a culture of consumers being health conscious and paying close attention to ingredients that may cause allergies and other conditions, this form of packaging has
played a vital role in reducing the need for artificial preservatives.
Maistry further comments that companies are continuously looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint by means of more sustainable distribution possibilities.
Using MAP for a variety of products has also proven to provide alternatives, thereby playing a role to improve supply chain efficiencies.
“We have been providing technical support and supplying many customers with our Freshline™ solutions in high-purity food grade gases for years, regardless of
whether they require it for packaging, cooling, chilling or freezing applications. Our Freshline™ range of food gases are suitable for applications including fruit and
vegetables, bakery goods, red meat, poultry, seafood, ready meals, liquid food and beverage to anything in between”, says Maistry.
He concludes: “At Air Products, we pride ourselves in our ability to not only supply high-purity food grade gases and equipment, but to form a partnership with our
customers. We assist them to improve their systems and the quality of the products they manufacture with the technical support we provide and most importantly,
our unmatched industry experience. Lastly, we believe our service levels play a role in the success of each of our customers.”
For more information on Air Products, visit www.airproducts.co.za.