Most of us build our meal plans and grocery lists with some consideration to perishable and nonperishable foods, whether we realize it or not. To put it simply: Some foods can live in your pantry for months without going bad, while others might last just a few days.
In short, perishable foods are those that spoil or “go bad” quickly if they’re not stored at certain temperatures.
If we talk about one of the highly perishable products, Fruits and vegetables, Packaging fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the more important steps in the long and complicated journey from grower to consumer.
Packaging of fruits and vegetables–
Packaging is one of the important considerations in vegetable and fruit market to reduce post-harvest losses and to make attractive to consumers. The use of properly designed containers for transporting and marketing of fruits and vegetables can maintain their freshness succulence and quality for longer period.
The package must be capable of protecting the product from the transport hazards; preventing the microbial and insect damage; minimizing the physiological and biochemical changes and losses in weight. Packaging is required not only for preservation and protection but also for safe transportation of products during storage and handling.
Characteristics of Ideal Packaging
- It must have sufficient mechanical strength and should be capable of providing efficient handling unit for customers and dealers.
- It should have convenient ware house or storage unit strength i.e. good compression strength and puncture resistance to tolerate the load of packages above it.
- It should be economical so that the fruit in a package should not become expensive to consumer.
- It should provide adequate ventilation to fruits and vegetables as fruits require aerobic respiration and exchange of gas to avoid decay and to maintain its identity.
- It should reduce the wastage of moisture loss as the freshness of fruits is lost with moisture loss which causes shrinkage of fruits and acceptability of consumers.
- It should have height adjustment in such a way that fruits of lower stack don’t get pressed by upper stack.
- It should fulfilGovernment compliance problem, manufactures responsibility for safety and regard of consumer health and welfare.
- It should specify company, its product and image: package should identify its contents.
- It must be required to aid disposal, reuse or recycling.
- It should have retailer acceptance to increase turnover.
- It should be acceptable in all marketing areas.
Various traditional packages used for packaging of fruits and vegetables are as follows-
Wooden-wire-bound crates are used for packaging of those vegetables which require hydrocoolingBecause, these are sturdy rigid with high stacking strength and are not affected by water, these are helpful for hydrocooling because of sufficient ventilation.
- Easy for empty boxes transportation as it can be dissembled.
- Labelling of these boxes is very tough which decreases its value
- Consumption of wood for the preparation of these boxes is not advisable.
- Cost is very high so cannot be used for cheap vegetables.
Wooden Crates and Lugs
These are generally used for costly fruits i.e. apples, stone fruits especially by Himachal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir . This is very sturdy and durable even for rough conditions.
- It has a good stacking strength which is required during long distance transportation.
- Easy for handling because of durability. Demerits:
- Very high cost and also leads to deforestation.
- Back transportations of these materials are not possible.
- Labelling of these boxes also is not attractive which is not acceptable to consumer.
- These are totally replaced by others types of packaging.
New age Packaging advancements for fruits and vegetables
Corrugated Fiber board
This is the most accepted with different styles and weights and is made up of paper-board manufactured by Kraft process. Paper board is generally 0.020 cm thick and is generally made from unbleached pulp with a characteristic brown colour. Different types of paper board are made up of different grades. These are differentiated by thickness and weight.
In addition to virgin wood fibres, Kraft paper may have some portion of synthetic fibers for additional strength, sizing, and other materials to give it wet strength and printability. Most fiber board contains some recycled fibres.
1.Cost effective as it consumes waste material of either wood or agricultural waste.
2. Labelling of these boxes is very easy which attract to consumer.
- Easy to handle to the consumer.
4. Stacking strength is good enough.
5. It can be easy folded and retransported when empty.
6. Light in weight.
1.It cannot be used for hydrocooling
2. Not fit for high humid fruit.
Paper and Mesh Bags
Consumer packs of potatoes and onions are about the only produce items now packed in paper bags The more sturdy mesh bag has much wider use. In addition to potatoes and onions, cabbage, turnips, citrus, and some specialty items are packed in mesh bags. Sweet corn may still be packaged in mesh bags in some markets. In addition to its low cost, mesh has the advantage of uninhibited air flow. Good ventilation is particularly beneficial to onions. Supermarket produce managers like small mesh bags because they make attractive displays that stimulate purchases. Bags of any type have several serious disadvantages. Large bags do not palletize well and small bags do not efficiently fill the space inside corrugated fiberboard containers. Bags do not offer protection from rough handling. Mesh bags provide little protection from light or contaminants.
These are the predominant material for almost all commodities. These are easily affordable and excepted by the consumers. It is also called polyethylene film. Film bags are clear, allowing the easily inspection of the materials.
- From economical point of view, as these are available in different sizes as per the demand of customers. The desire material can be packed.
- Consumer feels it very easy to handle these bags.
- These are available in various and grades.
- These can be recycled and reused.
- Shelf life of the produce is also enhanced as they restrict the physiological processes of commodity.
- Environmental pollution is the biggest hazard.
These are commonly used for consumer packaging with good strength (Figure 11). These can be reused and recycled .These are available in different sizes with different strength and mesh. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables can be seen packed in these mesh bags
Strawberry season is here, and you must have noticed how they are packed in rectangular shaped, clear looking packaging material. Well, this is called a PUNNET.
Punnets in simple term is a small box or square basket for the gathering, transport, and sale of fruit and vegetables.
In the late eighteenth century, strawberries and some soft fruit were sold in pottles, conical woodchip baskets.
Punnet travelled a lot in history to become a new-age packaging solution typically for small berries susceptible to bruising, spoiling and squashing that is, therefore, best kept in small rigid containers.
Contemporary punnet are generally made in a variety of dimensions of semi-rigid, transparent, lightweight PET(Polyethylene terephthalate ) material.
But, now we also have new age punnets that are made up Paper baord.
Fiber-based packaging company Graphic Packaging International launched ProducePack Punnet, a recyclable paperboard alternative to plastic punnet trays for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Also, Smurfit Kappa launched its paper-based punnet portfolio Safe&Green in Europe, where “consumers are ready to compromise for more sustainable packaging solutions for their fresh produce.”
In the beginning the concept of packaging was to take the produce of the farmers from the production center up to the local mandis and for that purpose even the bamboos basket was sufficient and there was no need to take into consideration to various technologies required for packaging of fruits but looking into the export and taking the produce directly to consumers.
There dire need to think about the complete technology of packaging so that the fruit can reach with safety up to the consumers without loss of any kind. So, the modern packaging systems should full fill all the steps from production and transportation to consumer. These are some of basic necessities of modern packaging. The package must be capable of tolerating long distance transportation, multiple handling and the climate changes of different storage places, transport methods and market conditions.
In designing fruit packages one shouldconsider both the physiological characteristics of the fruit as well as the whole distribution network
Careful packing of fruits and vegetables is necessary to keep the produce in place with minimum shaking. Fruits and vegetables are normally packed in layers in crates and in each layer products are packed alternately placing the beak of one in between the shoulders of two. This type of packaging is quick and easy. It also provides enough room to fruits without compressing it. Considering the long-term needs of eco-systems and to achieve an overall economy, other alternatives available like corrugated fibre board boxes, corrugated polypropylene board boxes, plastic trays/crates /wooden sacks, moulded pulp trays/thermoformed plastic trays and stretched film and shrink wrapping would have to be looked into.
Matche RS (2001). New trends in fresh produce packaging. Indian Food Industry. 20: 58-64.
APEDA (2005). Report on packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables for export. Indian Institute of Packaging, Mumbai.
*Assistant Manager, NPD Packaging – Moglix. A packaging technologist, Indian Institute of Packaging