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Prolonging freshness with industrial gases

Supagas plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality, safety, and preservation of food and beverages throughout various stages of production. 

In the world of food and beverage production and distribution, where every second counts when it comes to ensuring a product makes it to the consumer in its best form, one factor reigns supreme: freshness.

David Petroff, national industrial bulk manager, Supagas, and George Elhlou, national sales manager, Supagas, are both well aware of this fact. Pointing out the critical role Modified Atmosphere Packaging plays in achieving these ends.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a method used to prolong the shelf life of perishable products, particularly food items, by altering the atmosphere within the packaging.

This technique involves replacing the air surrounding the product with a mixture of gases that inhibit the growth of spoilage organisms, such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

The primary objective of MAP is to create an optimal environment that slows down chemical and biochemical reactions responsible for food deterioration.

Different food products may require different gas compositions to maintain freshness and quality.

For instance, some fruits and vegetables benefit from high levels of carbon dioxide to inhibit microbial growth, while others may require lower oxygen levels to prevent oxidative reactions.

Supagas is a supplier of gases commonly used in various industries, including the food and beverage sector, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2).

Image: David Fuentes/stock.adobe.com

For food manufacturers and retailers alike, the ability to extend the shelf life of perishable products is not just a competitive advantage—it’s a necessity.

For example, MAP is commonly used for a wide range of food products, including meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, vegetables, bakery items, and ready-to-eat meals.

“Nitrogen and carbon dioxide are the dominant gases used. It’s about ensuring we do enough experimental work with the client to determine what is the most efficient mixture for their product,” said Elhlou.

In this balance of preservation and presentation, the role of packaging takes centre stage and requires a level of expertise around innovation, precision, and sustainability in a quest to deliver quality products to consumers around the globe.

“Packaging is not just about containment, it’s about preservation,” said Petroff.

Indeed, the process of packaging extends far beyond just sealing products ready for sale; it’s a careful science aimed at maintaining freshness, enhancing shelf life, and ultimately, satisfying consumer expectations.

“There are specific food packaging machines and there are different types and designs for different products. The most common machine for this is tray sealing, but it could vary and be in any form,” added Elhlou.

Gas washing emerges as a key technique in this endeavour, where the removal of air from packaging serves as a safeguard against mould growth and product degradation.

For retailers, the sight of discoloured or spoiled products on shelves is not just a logistical headache, it’s a reflection of brand integrity and consumer trust. Meanwhile consumers themselves are unlikely to purchase unsightly perishable goods.

Yet, the stakes are raised even higher when crossing international borders.

Petroff explained some of the challenges faced by manufacturers seeking to tap into foreign markets, where longer transit times demand packaging solutions with extended shelf life.

MAP is widely employed in the food industry and is favoured for its ability to deliver fresh products to consumers over longer distances and time frames.

It helps extend the product’s shelf life, preserves its appearance, texture, flavour, and overall quality, and reduces the need for preservatives.

In such scenarios, the art of gas flushing, a process that involves adjusting oxygen levels within packaging, becomes paramount.

Through meticulous trials and adjustments, manufacturers must fine-tune gas mixtures to suit each product’s unique requirements, ensuring optimal freshness from factory to fork.

The narrative expands to encompass the wider landscape of efficiency and adaptation within the food and beverage industry.

As consumer preferences evolve and markets expand, manufacturers are under increasing pressure to boost production output without compromising quality.

This necessitates investments in cutting-edge machinery and technologies, coupled with strategic partnerships with suppliers who can offer expertise in packaging optimisation.

Industrial gas suppliers like Supagas play a pivotal role in this ecosystem, leveraging their wealth of experience and data to guide manufacturers towards tailored packaging solutions.

“The customer is always looking to optimise what they’re doing,” said Petroff.

Highlighting the collaborative nature of the relationship between suppliers and manufacturers.

Through a collaboration of expert knowledge and innovation, the team at Supagas strives to stay ahead of the curve to help meet the ever-evolving demands of a dynamic market.

Yet, amidst the pursuit of efficiency and profitability, a sobering reality remains, food waste.

Petroff underscores the imperative of minimising waste, not just for economic reasons, but for the ethics around sustainability.

As manufacturers navigate the delicate balance between production volume and waste reduction, every decision has weight, underscoring the need for holistic solutions that prioritise both profit margins and environmental stewardship.

“Supagas’ extensive experience and knowledge in food gas applications and processing, including packaging is focused direct to the customer,” said Elhlou.

“Allowing the food packaging, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to focus on their scope of work.

“Whilst leaving the total MAP gas supply system solution in the hands of Supagas, where customer satisfaction and support is paramount.”

The story of food packaging is one of innovation, collaboration, and adaptation.

From the complexities of gas flushing to the broader challenges of sustainability and waste reduction, every aspect of the process reflects a commitment to excellence and a dedication to meeting consumer expectations.

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