More than ever, today's markets are calling for fresher and less processed food products. In the vegetable sector, where items are quite perishable, innovative food packaging technologies can extend shelf life while maintaining a low level of pre-sale manipulation. Researchers working on EUREKA project E! 1975 EUROAGRI + GREENTEC are developing innovative food wrappings that will reduce browning and increase the shelf life of perishable vegetable products.
Partners in the EUROAGRI+ GREENTEC project are working to improve the conservation of consumer-friendly vegetables. José Burnay at EUROAGRI+ GREENTEC coordinator Campotec explains. "We are looking at edible wrappings, combined with new techniques for processing under modified atmospheres. The goal is reduced browning and extended shelf life for mixed pre-cut vegetables." The packaging sector is an important global industry, representing about 2% of the gross national product of the developed countries. The value of the packaging industry is about 345 million euro worldwide and forecasts suggest the sector will continue to grow in size and importance.
Better food for better business
The first step was to select the appropriate vegetable types. These included varieties of onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbage and lettuce. Other crucial factors included storage stability, rheological; chemical; microbiological and aesthetic parameters. The project is also addressing new quality standards for storage and logistics systems for minimally processed cut vegetables.
"This project has allowed us to build up a new line of minimally processed pre-cut vegetables," says Burnay. "We are now launching new operations and tackling new markets for our company." Beginning in 2002, he says, Campotec turnover from pre-cut vegetables was 500,000 euro. By 2006, that figure rose to 3.25 million euro. "For next year we are targeting 20% 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."
Burnay says project partners are targeting industrial-scale production. "We have evaluated the evolution of selected products in cooperation with the Instituto Suprior de Agronomia and the Instituto Nacional Investigação Agrária, as well as with the Instituto del Frio and the Cryovac company, a world leader in packaging materials and systems for preserving perishable foods."
Burnay says Campotec made the right move in deciding to work with EUREKA. "The knowledge exchange between project partners has been tremendous, bringing real benefits. We are all aware that cooperation and innovation are now the only way to go forward, to make a difference to consumers and to survive in business in a more a more competitive world."
Materials provided by EUREKA. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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