“Retailers are currently hugely concerned with saving and sustainability," begins Annette Hardeman, PerfoTec's Financial Director. A welcome development for this Dutch company that, by using laser micro-perforation technology, modifies packages' atmosphere.
That improves the packaged fresh product's quality and shelf life, thus matching that retail development. "Fresh fruits and vegetables still 'breathe' even after being harvested. That causes moisture and CO2 to circulate in a package, precipitating as acidic condensation. That can spoil the product."
“Removing that moisture and CO2 improves the packaged product's quality and extends its shelf life. And that's a huge saving for the whole chain. Less food is wasted, which means less land is needed to grow the same quantity for retail. You also need fewer transportation boxes and less labor," says Annette.
"All that reduces CO2 emissions." She points out that laser micro-perforation technology can significantly extend products' shelf life. PerfoTec research found that using this method extends, for example, the shelf life of spinach from seven to 21 days.
Traditional banana packaging (left) versus PerfoTec LinerBags (right).
How does it work? “Laser micro-perforation creates - just enough - air exchange between the bag's inside and the outside environment to stabilize and slow down the packaged fresh products' respiration rate. Those products lay dormant, thus increasing their shelf life. This highly innovative technique doesn't affect the product in any way. It focuses purely on the packaging. The laser micro-perforations, tuned to the product's specific respiration rate, affect only the atmosphere, without adding anything to the product or packaging," explains Annette.
She adds that, based on studies and tests, this method can be tailored to the needs of all fruits, vegetables, and flowers and that PerfoTec’s solution is suitable for all packaging lines. "We have solutions for bulk transport of vegetables, fruits, and flowers too." The company has bags for cherries, blueberries, avocados, and mangoes.
Now, PerfoTec has also developed LinerBags tailored to bananas. "Our research showed that these bags can extend these products' shelf life throughout the chain by three weeks. And that, for instance, organic bananas' paper bands - which are applied around the bunches at the grower's premises - stay dry. That can save plenty of handling further down the line," Hardeman says.
Benefits entire chain
According to her, these LinerBags will have the most visible effect on food waste at retailers, the last link in the chain. But, Annette points out: laser micro-perforating can benefit the entire chain. She notes that, say, banana handling costs can be significantly reduced throughout the chain. "When using traditional bags, the bananas often have to be repacked."
"That's for quality selection and to prevent further spoilage; that's not necessary with the PerfoTec LinerBags. These bags are also ethylene permeable, so they can be used in ripening cells. That ensures more even ripening, color and firmness-wise," notes Annette. Depending on customers' needs and waste streams, PerfoTec offers film solutions that are either recyclable or compostable.
These LinerBags are slightly more expensive than traditional bags. If you compare only this, it hampers the use of this laser micro-perforation technology, despite its advantages across the chain. In addition to doing comparative tests, Annette believes it is important to show supply chain partners the big picture.
"Using the LinerBags not only leads to better quality bananas, That, in itself offers a price advantage. But at growers, packers, and retailers, it saves handling costs, waste, and the associated CO2 and methane emissions, too," she concludes.