Campotec scientists working on the Eureka project are looking to develop ways of conserving vegetables for human consumption. The new technology could be useful for food producers and manufacturers who often lose profit when fruit and vegetables becomes spoiled. "We are looking at edible wrappings, combined with new techniques for processing under modified atmospheres," project coordinator José Burnay said. Burnay and his colleagues examined how crucial factors such as storage stability and chemical, microbiological and aesthetic parameters affect vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbage and lettuce. Burnay claims that the project has led to company growth over the past five years. Beginning in 2002, he says, Campotec turnover from pre-cut vegetables was €500,000. In 2006 that figure had risen to €3.25m. "For next year we are targeting 20 per cent growth," says Burnay. "We are now moving on to processing fruit and will launch a new product this year, sliced fresh apples, packed in small polybags for kids." The packaging sector as a whole now represents an important global industry, accounting for about 2 per cent of the gross national product of the developed countries. Consumers are often particularly concerned about packaging for fruit and vegetables as they damage easily in transit. Growers often harvest unripe produce, as its harder consistency is more adept at sustaining the knocks and bumps which cost market millions of euros loss of profit.
New food wrappings for vegetables will reduce browning and increase shelf-life, the manufacturers claim.