Packaging cuts fresh green bean waste

The US foodservice industry is discovering the benefits of receiving fresh green bean supplies in lean, modified atmosphere bulk packaging (MAP) newly developed by sustainable packaging experts StePac. The company’s solution under the brand name Xtend targets food waste in the foodservice supply chain and delivers added benefits of preserving the quality, crispiness, and glossy green color of fresh green beans while maintaining full fresh flavour.

Green beans are grown in South Florida and Tennessee, with peak season from November to May. A large percentage of the green beans are packed and shipped to the foodservice industry. But fresh green beans have a short shelf life of around 8 to 12 days. Dehydration, a common post-harvest problem, causes the pods to shrivel and become limp from progressive weight loss and plastic packaging is often used to reduce this waste.

However, excess moisture generated in standard packaging aggravates decay and russeting — reddish-brown spots that result from chilling injury when beans are stored at 5-7.5°C (41-45°F). Foodservice outlets must discard food supplies that do not meet specifications for appearance and quality and are rendered unfit for consumption.

StePac developed modified atmosphere packaging films inbuilt with ideal water vapor transmission rates (WVTR) that eliminate the excess moisture from fresh green bean packaging, mitigating risk of decay and reducing sensitivity to russeting. The company’s proprietary solution also preserves the crispiness and glossy green color of fresh green beans and prevents excessive weight loss caused by dehydration.

Food waste is an estimated $100bn problem within the hospitality sector alone, reports Winnow, producers of a device that monitors food waste in commercial kitchens. “Food waste in the foodservice sector is a major challenge, affecting the entire global food value chain,” notes Gary Ward, Ph.D., Business Development Manager for StePac. “Our technology offers a solution for helping curb that waste and enhancing the quality of the produce reaching the kitchens. It also isn’t limited to green beans but extends to a range of other vegetables, such as peas, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and others that are freshly bulk packed exclusively for the foodservice sector.

StePac’s packaging solutions can help increase the shelf life of green beans and other vegetables, often by as much as 50-100 per cent, and allows foodservice providers to serve vegetables cooked from higher quality fresh produce, more sustainably and with reduced waste.

StePac offers a range of films that cater to nearly every requirement. In addition to Xtend carton liners, its groundbreaking Xflow films, with their patented sealing layer, have facilitated applicability for automated packaging, such as vertical form-fill and seal (VFFS) packing. This lets the packaging of green beans and other vegetables meet the demands of high turnover facilities and is already gaining momentum within facilities in regions of the US, especially Florida.

“The new Xflow packaging supports high-speed, high-throughput automated packaging lines for fresh vegetables; supports distributors and growers; and better meets the needs of hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions across the US,” adds Ward. “Foodservice sites can receive enhanced quality produce while enjoying the benefits of reduced labor costs.”

This solution for automated packing of fresh green beans for foodservice applications adds to the comprehensive portfolio of packaging solutions StePac offers for fresh vegetables. The portfolio includes bulk carton liners, preformed bags (including standing pouches for retail applications) as well as films for VFFS, flowpack and topseal for retail packaging formats.

Functional packaging meets automation

Growing demand for functional packaging of fresh produce that is suited for automation has prompted StePac L.A to tailor its branded range of Xtend Modified Atmosphere/Modified Humidity (MA/MH) packaging solutions to be compatible with both automated bulk and retail packing lines.

This move facilitates the use of substantially leaner packaging films, with multiple benefits of extending fresh produce shelf life, minimizing food waste, and reducing the use of plastics, making for more environmentally responsible “green and lean” packaging. The initiative exemplifies the company’s concerted efforts to manufacture “purposeful” plastic packaging solutions that contribute to reducing food waste while having minimal impact on the environment.

“When analysing the carbon footprint of produce shipped in StePac’s packaging — especially when shipped by sea versus conventional air freight — we see that the packaging has a ‘climate-positive’ effect; that is, the carbon emission savings resulting from its use exceeds the carbon emissions of the packaging,” says Gary Ward, technical development manager for StePac. “The transition to automated flowpack packaging significantly reduces the amount of plastic consumed, making the product even more ‘climate positive’.”

StePac developed multiple film structures to support the shift to automated MA/MH packaging. For example, the Xflow bulk flowpack film reduces the amount of plastic packaging used by up to 40%, while retaining its unique functions for substantially extending the shelf life of fresh produce in comparison to alternative options or if no packaging is used at all.

The unique Xflow films for automated packaging are currently gaining momentum for packing different types of vegetables for food service in the US, where the use of StePac’s innovative functional films has been instrumental in boosting both operational throughput and meeting shelf life requirements.

The move to automated packing systems is good news for growers/packers who will enjoy the added benefits of lowered labor costs. The new Xgo line of retail packaging encourages the packaging at source of fresh produce in high clarity MA/MH films ready for the shelves. The packaging of fresh goods such as passion fruit (which is particularly sensitive to excess moisture) in such high-performance packaging eliminates the need to sort, grade, and repack upon arrival and allows for their shipment by sea in retail packaging formats. In this case, the importers also benefit from less handling costs. The Xgo line of products for automated packaging includes lidding films (also available in resealable format) and various types of flowpack films.

Multiple factors are driving the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, including increased awareness of the importance of healthy eating as well as population growth. The demand for functional packaging that keeps produce fresh longer and reduces supply chain waste is high. At the same time, environmental considerations and natural resource constraints are creating the need for leaner recyclable packaging that effectively extends shelf life for long distance land and sea transport.

“StePac is attentive to the dynamics of a market displaying an increased demand for more responsible practices without forfeiting on functionality and convenience,” adds Ward. “We have dedicated much of our R&D efforts toward adapting and improving our products and systems to meet these needs and create more responsible packaging solutions.”

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Close