Co-op discovers packaging 'holey grail'

10 April 2013

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10 April 2013 | Adam Leach

The Co-operative Food is reducing the size and number of holes in its packaging for vine tomatoes, after tasking its supplier to develop an approach that extends the product’s shelf life.

Following research by supplier Paragon, the packaging on a 400g pack of fresh vine tomatoes will feature fewer and smaller air holes, which has been proven to extend shelf life. The size and placement of the holes was assessed against air velocity, diffusion and moisture transfer and is expected to extend the life by up to two days, lowering waste and the costs associated with it.

Iain Ferguson, technical expert at The Co-operative Food, said in a statement: “Thanks to this study on holes, British growers will able to make the most of their crops and customers will be able to keep them fresher for longer. This is a major breakthrough in our continuing search to provide our customers with extra value, which is why we’re calling it the ‘holey grail’.”

Richard Swannell, director of design and waste prevention at WRAP, said: “We welcome this innovation by The Co-operative Food. Food waste is a serious issue and as our research shows packaging can have a significant role to play in helping reduce unnecessary food waste.” WRAP found 60 per cent of food waste is a result of food not being used in time, so it has to be thrown away.

Previous packaging innovations at the company to reduce waste include using ‘skin pack’ packaging for its steaks, which reduced the amount of oxygen around the product and therefore enabled it to stay fresher for longer. It also removed individual plastic covers from its cucumbers, instead using a single plastic cover on its crates during transit, which enabled the Co-operative to reduce plastic use by eight tonnes a year.

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