Oxygen absorbers to extend shelf-life

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Use in-pack absorbers carefully to ensure baked goods don't dry out
Use in-pack absorbers carefully to ensure baked goods don't dry out

Related tags: Carbon dioxide

In-pack oxygen absorber labels are able to provide valuable additional days of shelf-life for baked goods, in particular, where manufacturers are keen to eliminate preservatives from their recipes, says a UK supplier of flow-wrap systems.

Paramount Packaging Systems, UK agent for Fuji Machinery horizontal form-fill-seal (HFFS) systems, is now able to integrate Freshcare oxygen absorbers into its lines. According to the Dutch supplier of the absorbers O2 Control, combining the label inside the pack with gas flushing can create controlled atmosphere packaging capable of achieving 0.1% residual oxygen, when used with a long-dwell flow-wrapper.

Oxygen absorbers are already widely used in Japan and increasingly in parts of mainland Europe, said Paramount.

‘Under pressure’

“Manufacturers are under pressure to take preservatives out of breads and tortillas, for example, but your shelf-life can drop significantly,”​ said Aaron Bessell, responsible for technical sales at Paramount. One major problem with baked goods is that oxygen is typically trapped in the open product structure.

“We have done an informal side-by-side shelf-life test on tortilla bread,”​ said Bessell. “We gas flushed packs in the same way with and without Freshcare, and after 10 days, those packs with the absorber were still fine, while the others were showing signs of mould growth.”

He explained that customers need to establish the benefits themselves, as the effects were so product-dependent. The absorber can be applied inline to lidding films or trays using a modified labeller.

“A manufacturer switching to Freshcare may need to ensure there is more moisture in the product, since it tends to dry out more,”​ he said. “We also tend to pump in slightly more nitrogen, so that the pack doesn’t ‘vacuum’ down too much during its shelf-life.”

When combining the absorber with gas flushing, said O2 Control, products like fresh pasta not only require fewer preservatives but also avoid flavour changes sometimes attributed to a carbon dioxide atmosphere. Nitrogen can be used instead.

Potential growth

Paramount said it has not registered any customer interest in other types of active packaging such as carbon dioxide emitters or ethylene absorbers for produce. But others see this as being a much broader area of potential growth.

At the Nofima food research institute in Norway, senior research scientist Marit Kvalvag Pettersen said that earlier this year her team published a paper on the shelf-life of poultry when various gas mixtures were combined with a carbon dioxide emitter.

“I think the use of this type of technology will increase as the availability of active packaging products grows,”​ she said.

Related topics: Bakery, Packaging materials

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