ARTICLE: Perfect packaging for preservation

Those wanting a health check for fresh produce packaging need look no further than the JSB Group/Halden Packaging alliance. Gill Loubser from Packaging and Print Media, (ZA) uncovers the detail.

Is your packaging optimised? This is the vital question asked -and answered- by JSB Group’s Jeffrey Brandenburg and his associates when they are assessing suitable fresh produce packaging.

Thanks to many years’ experience in both technical and business aspects of the flexible packaging industry, the JSB Group offers South Africa’s fresh produce growers and retailers are able to find answers to complex scientific questions. ‘What we offer is a health check for packaging. Is the packaging ideal for a specific application? If not, what should be done about it? We check the physiology of fresh produce and the optimal atmosphere needed to extend its shelf life.’ So explains Jeffrey Brandenburg, president of the US-based JSB Group. ‘Combined with resources provided by our affiliates, colleagues and contacts. we deliver an in-depth service to address any produce and food packaging challenge. Our goal is to be the technology resource for the flexible packaging industry,’ he asserts. Underlining this contention, another person present at our meeting in Cape Town is Peter Halperin of Paarden Eiland-based Halden Packaging, who acts as the local arm of the JSB Group. With a strong background in food technology and sanitation, Peter provides professional local back-up when JSB Group is engaged in consultations with South African converters and retailers. As Jeffrey puts it: ‘We can do the science, but we need somebody here in South Africa who can communicate with our clients on day-to-day business matters. Peter is that person.’ And, as Peter adds: ‘We act as a conduit – bringing the latest global flexible packaging science and technology to the attention of the local packaging community. Whatever is being done for JSB’s clients on a global basis is immediately known here.’ A particular focus is on MAP (modified atmosphere packaging), a technology in constant demand in South Africa for a myriad fresh products destined for local and export markets. One converter who has worked closely with the JSB Group and Haldan Packaging is Dean Gianni of Durban-based Packaging World. In Dean’s experience, close collaboration is needed between growers/packers and packaging suppliers to reap the full benefits of MAP, and he’s quick to endorse the benefits of working with scientists at the JSB Group and appreciative of the local backing from Halden Packaging.

The ‘science’ behind fresh
Looking at the science behind the design of fresh produce packaging, Jeff notes the convergence of three distinct sciences – produce physiology, polymer engineering and converting technology. MAP for fresh produce is complicated, as produce in the bag continues to respire, consuming 0 2 and giving off C~. To design and optimise MAP, produce respiration rates (RR) must first be quantifies. It’s here that collaboration with Deirdre Holcroft (Holcroft Postharvest Consulting) has resulted in a relatively simple RR quantification procedure that includes the ability to perform on-site or laboratory tests for RR on multiple raw materials simultaneously. Properly designed, the pack allows the internal atmosphere to modify passively until an optimal final modified atmosphere is achieved. Active gas flushing in produce packaging is an augmentation technology only used in certain situations, eg to prevent enzymatic browning in Iceberg or Romaine lettuce. MAP, combined with proper post-harvest handling procedures and temperature control management, can have a positive impact on the quality and shelf-life of fresh produce. However, there are some limitations, as Jeff Brandenburg points out. ‘MAP is only effective if there’s consistent temperature management throughout a product’s entire life cycle. Lack of temperature control results in physiological variations, particularly respiration, that have an impact on effectiveness. For example, if MAP is designed for 10″C but held at s•c then it takes longer to achieve an effective atmosphere because the RR is lower. If it’s stored at 20″C then RR increases and the product can go anaerobic, affecting quality, causing off-flavours and decreasing shelf life.’ Wide range of scientific advice But it’s not only on MAP matters on which the JSB Group offers expert scientific advice. The overall aim is to be acknowledged as the leading technology resource for the entire flexible packaging, fresh produce and general food packaging sectors by 86 ~ PRCHRGitm & Print Media providing technical, sales, marketing, market research, training, and management support. ‘This broad mission statement is being accomplished through our expertise in a wide variety of packaging and equipment technologies,’ Jeff remarks in summing up. ‘These include fresh cut produce, MAP, barrier packaging, peelable lidding structures, forming materials, microwaveable packaging and stand-up pouch technology. We’re happy to be questioned on any of these technologies.’

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