In an exclusive audio interview ahead of a launch event for customers, UK Freshline application manager Neil Hansford and lead agricultural engineer Sonia Guri highlighted the valuable contribution that aroma can make to a food brand.
Speaking at the Air Products R&D centre at Basingstoke, they underlined the ways in which Aroma MAP can support wider moves towards sensory marketing, while also offering potential for an antimicrobial and shelf-life-extending role.
“The Aroma MAP system allows you to deliver precise amounts of volatile compounds into your MAP gas stream,” said Guri. “So it provides your product with good aroma, and potentially you can extend the shelf-life of your product.”
‘Strongest and longest memories’
Hansford added: “Our sense of smell evokes the strongest and longest memories that we have. The aroma of a product can evoke memories and can remind you of the branding. So lots of businesses today are using aromas to give their brand that distinctive smell that people remember and go back to.”
For now, Air Products is emphasising these aesthetic and branding aspects of its new system.
But when asked about the system’s possible impact on shelf-life and, by extension, food waste, Guri explained: “You can extend shelf-life, depending on the compounds you are using. We know that essential oils are giving that effect to food. So you can manage how you reduce food waste, prolonging the shelf-life of the product.”
Future research could create a firmer link between specific compounds and shelf-life extension, but this is not an area that the company has neglected. “We did some [research],” said Guri. “We see that some active compounds, some essential oils, can give that effect; but we have to keep working on that.”
Regarding the food categories which could benefit from Aroma MAP, Hansford listed meat & poultry, baked goods and savoury snacks as three prime contenders. But he added that, with the wide range of aromas at its disposal, the system could lend itself to “almost every market within the food industry”.
Use on any packing line
Aroma can be mixed into the MAP gas supply on any kind of packing line, whether tray-sealing, horizontal form-fill-seal or vertical form-fill-seal.
Importantly, given consumer concerns about clean-label ingredients, Air Products has stressed the fact that the use of these natural compounds does not have any impact in this area. It has also made clear that retrofitting the system involves minimum disruption to a customer’s existing packing and gas-flushing operation, requiring only a ‘bolt-on’ module which combines the vaporised aroma compound with any standard gas mix.
The amount of aromatic compound or essential oil dosed into the gas mix is said to be precise and repeatable.
As well as being safe and hygienic, the system also complies with all relevant food-related legislation and with best practice, according to the company.