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A large Israeli food conglomerate redesigns its flexible packaging for improved sustainability

Postharvest Hub Strauss new eco-friendly packaging

Major players in the fresh produce industry increasingly realize their responsibility to engage in more sustainable practices, especially when developing and choosing packaging for their products. They understand that their packaging must contribute to minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and soil contamination by becoming completely recyclable or reusable—all while delivering fresh produce safely, maintaining freshness, extending shelf life, and continuing to be cost-effective.

To this end, Strauss, a major Israeli food distributor, enlisted the help of Shay Zeltzer along with polymer engineers at ROP Ltd. to redesign its entire line of flexible packaging. The project team from Strauss consisted of representatives from the production plant, packaging procurement, and quality assurance. Five goals were defined:

  1. Decrease total amount of plastic used

  2. Improve presentation

  3. Reduce costs

  4. Design packaging that was 100% recyclable

  5. Maintain or exceed produce quality and shelf life of the company’s packed salads and fresh leafy greens

The multi-stage project, which included the design and testing of various films, lasted nearly three years. The winning film, a Cast Polypropylene-based film named FC-SP/AF 50 was selected after extensive testing in ROP’s postharvest lab, Strauss’s QC testing facilities, and external food-safety labs. Logistic chain simulations were also conducted with a variety of products including washed romaine, washed rocket, mixed greens, shredded cabbage, and carrot mix.

A 28% reduction in plastic weight was achieved by reducing the film gauge to 50 microns. Film cost remained the same even though global resin prices rose during the development period. Due to the lower film gauge, savings in transportation and storage were also realized as each roll could hold more impressions.

The new mono-polymer film is super clear with exceptional antifog properties resulting in superb presentation. Produce shelf life now surpasses the 11 days proclaimed on the “Sell-by-date” on the packed salads. Most importantly, the new film helps Strauss meet its goal to reach 100% recyclability/reusability by 2025.

Postharvest Hub quote icon

Shay is passionate about what he does. He is a consummate professional in his approach and a gentlemen in respect to his interactions with people at all levels in any organization. 

-- Don Stidham, Director BT9

Postharvest Hub GAP implementation image of persimmons packaging

Innovative persimmons packaging and protocols  bridge gap season 

Persimmon consumption in Europe and North America is on a rise and the demand for year-round supply drives growers and shippers to seek ways to bridge the supply gaps between Northern and Southern Hemisphere crops.

A request came from MOR, a leading grower and exporter of Sharon persimmons grown in Israel and South Africa, to develop packaging and postharvest protocol for preserving the freshness of the fruit harvested in October and November for marketing in March and April.

After three years of research and development together with ROP, a leading Israeli modified atmosphere (MA) packaging manufacturer, Postharvest Hub not only reached the initially specified goals but was also able to realize the additional benefit of auto de-astringency of the fruit while in transit. This eliminates the need for the traditional ripening process using exposure to high CO2 — a definite increase in ROI.

Postharvest Hub environmentally sustainable operations image of lychee in a package

Lychee protocol and packaging preserves natural flavor and appearance 

"This one tastes spoiled" said my wife when she had a lychee that I'd peeled for her. "Not like the others I had before." I laughed. It wasn't spoiled but it had been treated with sulfur and acid as dictated by the prevailing postharvest protocol for lychee. "All the others that you ate before were not treated with chemicals, but instead packed in special MA packaging for lychee."

To preserve the appearance of lychee it is fumigated with sulfur right after harvest. At the end of the process the fruit loses its reddish color and turns pale-yellow. As this is not a desired, marketable color, the fruit is then dipped in various acids to bring back the familiar uniform red color that we all know.

The natural flavor of fresh lychee is known only to the lychee growers and to those with lychee trees in their back yard.

Following the trend to reduce the use of chemicals on fruit, a project was initiated to develop alternative postharvest treatment and packaging to preserve the natural color and flavor of lychee through the distribution chain.

Together with Dr. Wentao Jia, a polymer engineer at ROP (Israeli modified atmosphere (MA) packaging manufacturer), packaging was developed for preserving the freshness of lychee for up to 3 weeks without chemical application.  The packaging was successfully tested during two seasons by Israeli exporters including MOR International and Galilee.

The color of the lychees in the new packaging is the natural color of the harvested fruit rather than the artificial-red color consumers are used to finding in stores—and its flavor is superb.

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