The drive towards sustainability is a key factor for food packagers looking to extend their products shelf life, according to a permeation testing company.
MOCON, which has seven certified permeation testing laboratories in North America, Europe and Asia, aims to bring their testing to multinational corporations as well as smaller firms.
The Minneapolis-based firm provides oxygen or water vapour permeation analysis in films, bottles and finished packaging to help determine a products shelf life.
The laboratories test packaging for food companies that don’t have the in-house resources, Guy Wray, marketing manager at MOCON, told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“A lot of firms don’t have the necessary in-house testing facilities, so they outsource it so they can test up to 15 barrier types.
“[Companies] usually come to us with two problems, they either under package a product so it doesn’t have a good enough barrier or they over package to take no chances on shelf life which seriously cuts their bottom line.
“Packagers need to make sure they do it once and do it right the first time, as it would save them money in the long run,” he said.
“If you don’t do permeation testing you basically don’t know your shelf life.”
Wray said different barrier protection can extend the shelf life by months and gave the following example.
“We had a company who makes chips which had a six-week shelf life and they needed longer. So we tested that to make sure it was accurate and found they did already have that shelf life.
“The barrier was changed and it doubled the shelf life and the switch to modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) led to a shelf life of 54 weeks as it stopped the water vapour affecting the chips.”
Certification means instrumentation has been installed, inspected and maintained by a MOCON-factory authorized service technician and that the laboratory staff has been trained on test lab methods/protocols and record keeping.
Wray said MOCON’s aim is to have facilities everywhere for packaging testing with expansion planned in the Southern Hemisphere.
Barrier testing properties
“We can do the initial testing of a barrier’s properties or we test the barrier properties that the supplier has given them. We then look at if it complies with x or does it do y and can validate the suppliers claims.
“A film converter comes to us with their barrier and we can see how much oxygen permeates the film on a daily basis, so I know that I have one day, three days or a couple of months of shelf life depending on the product.
“If the product is a success, the first thought is how can we make more money and reduce costs so they redesign the package.”
He added there has been a move over to biodegradable product but there was the question over if it gave the same or better protection than what was currently used.
“There is definitely a push towards sustainability and the green movement as producers becoming more responsible citizens and divert waste away from landfill.
“Testing is a global industry, especially with the increased understanding of packaging in India. Four or five years ago they were about 20 years behind Europe, the UK and US, now they are up at the same level as everyone else.”