The Pros and Cons of 7 Types of Food Packaging


Written by MOCON Dansensor and Anton Hutson, Founder of Tendring Pacific

Food packaging comes in an amazing array of types. These range from methods that have been around for more than a hundred years, such as metal cans, bottle and jars, to modern high-tech approaches such as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP).

Anton Hutson, founder of the UK-based company Tendring Pacific, has spent 30 years in various areas of the print and packaging industry. Here, Anton takes us on a tour through the different types of packaging products and methods in today’s market.

His primary area of interest is in controlling the consistency and quality of packaging materials and in optimizing the packaging process to reduce waste.

A Good Atmosphere...

In Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) food is packaged in a container such as a plastic tray or bag and the air is flushed out and replaced by a mixture of gases. The type and amount of gas used in the mixture will depend on the product. The aim is to increase the shelf life of the product while maintaining its attractive appearance. Read more about shelf life in this case study.

Often this means removing most of the oxygen so that microbes that otherwise spoil food cannot survive in the package.


Here, a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide may be suitable. These gases occur naturally in the atmosphere so they are perfectly safe. The method is excellent for fresh produce, ranging from meat products to fruit. MAP requires a high level of quality assurance: it is vital that the gas mixture is correct and that there are no leaks in the packaging materials.

Pros:

  • Good shelf life

  • Excellent presentation

  • Ideal for fresh produce

Cons:

  • High level of quality assurance needed, requiring appropriate investment in equipment

The Value of Vacuum

In vacuum packaging the air is sucked out of the flexible film surrounding the produce and the package is then sealed. The film forms itself around the shape of the product. The absence of air increases the shelf life of the product.

It can be difficult to get attractive presentation of the food. The often lumpy package does not make an ideal surface for labeling either. The method is restricted to products that can withstand being deformed.

So, vacuum packaging is suitable for products such as meat cuts. Vacuum packaging is not well suited for soft products such as fruit or soft cheeses.

Pros:

  • Extends shelf life

Cons:

  • Not especially attractive appearance

  • Can be difficult to label because of lumpy shape

  • Only suitable for things that can be compressed by the packaging

  • Need good quality assurance to check for leaks, something that can be tricky to achieve


Contact one of our Packaging Application Specialists to learn more and discuss your specific application today.

If you want to read more about the History of MAP, check out www.modifiedatmospherepackaging.com

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