Removing ethylene using an active packaging technology can extend strawberry shelf life by at least two days, according to research presented this week.
Cranfield University and Writtle College used the ethylene-removal technology used in It’sFresh! pads to show how it can compensate for temperature breaks in the fresh-produce supply chain.
Ethylene is a major problem in the supply chain, and It’sFresh! claims to be the only ethylene-reduction technology that can be used from grower to consumer.
Ethylene is the hormone that causes fruit to ripen and then turn mouldy.
Cranfield’s findings of the three year study are still pending publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, so details couldn’t be revealed on why removing ethylene could extend the shelf life of strawberries, explained Simon Lee, chief marketing officer at It’sFresh!
However, using It’sFresh! technology has shown strawberries tend to decay more slowly from the common Botrytis Cinerea mould, he told FoodQualityNews.com.
“The It’sFresh! pads and sheet are created to ‘fit’ the type of fruit it is to be used with . We calculate the ethylene adsorption rates to ensure that our sheets never reach saturation point, and we constantly check adsorption levels in used pads to validate our calculations.”
It’sFresh! ethylene removal pads are manufactured in sizes to meet requirements at different stages of the supply chain. For example, to protect items such as avocados in transit, large (A5-sized) sheets are available as well as smaller versions for retail packs.
Blend of minerals and clay
The blend of minerals and clay is a proprietary advanced materials science that has required significant investment over the last five years, said the firm.
The benefit is the ability to selectively trap and lock away ethylene molecules by a process known as adsorption.
“In addition to the mechanistic findings, the adverse effect of ‘temperature breaks’ in a ‘real life’ supply chain where berries are not, or cannot, be kept cool; for example in transit to the supermarket and in the consumer’s shopping bags,” said Lee.
“Writtle College’s research findings show that It’sFresh! technology provides at least two days’ extra product life. The result is improved quality and reduced waste.”
Future trials and pilots
The research was presented at the Managing Quality in Supply Chains conference (MQUIC) and It’sFresh! were platinum sponsors of the event.
“We will continue to test It’sFresh! on different varieties of fruit and vegetables, which will be followed by extensive trials and commercial pilots before the technology is rolled out with new cultivars,” added Lee.
The It’sFresh! technology, driven by Food Freshness Technology (FFT), was first used commercially with M&S strawberries in November 2011 .
It has also been used by Waitrose and others in the UK, by Cencosud in Chile and there is wider EU, US and Asia-Pacific (APAC) commercialisation underway.
It is patented and Campden BRI has confirmed that the technology is compliant with the relevant EU and US food-contact legislation, said the firm.