Clear film packages, however, provide great visibility but are limited in functionality without the added protection of sorbents. The use of less impermeable clear films achieve product visibility but then increase the need to control oxygen in the package, which can enter during distribution, storage and while shelved. Therefore, using appropriate sorbent technology better influences the results achieved by MAP with clear film packages, and allows greater control of oxygen levels to prevent oxidation.
Oxidation destroys nutrients and vitamins. Nothing depletes nutrients more rapidly than oxidation. The fact that vitamins A, C, E and K bind with oxygen readily and lose potency in distribution is an immediate concern to health-conscious consumers. However, by using sorbents to remove oxygen from a package, the nutritional value of vitamins – along with product taste – are protected and delivered to the consumer unaffected.
Taste is another key factor considered by consumers to determine which products they will purchase regularly. Increased use of natural flavors presents unique challenges to organic food manufacturers. The oxidation of flavor oils such, as citrus and spice oleoresins, can adversely affect flavor. To maintain the desired flavor for any length of time, removing oxygen from within the package is essential. The anti-oxygen properties of sorbents can help to lock in food flavors, while still keeping certain aspects of texture – or mouth feel – during distribution. Additionally, humectant technology can sustain relative humidity levels within 5 percent of the desired equilibrium within the package to prevent food products from becoming stale, or too moist and soggy.
Oxidation of unsaturated fats also results in product spoilage. Eliminating oxygen from the package environment with sorbents prevents cleavage at the point of a double bond in fatty acid chains, which causes the offensive odor and can affect product sales. If consumers open a product package to an unpleasant odor, buyer confidence is likely to dip and diminish repeat purchases.
Although the packaged grocery and frozen departments will continue to see more offerings, innovation seems focused on the fresh departments, which have become increasingly profitable for many natural products retailers. Specifically, organic foods are fast becoming a mainstream choice for health-conscious consumers who are concerned with the amount of artificially produced hormones, emulsifiers, and other chemicals that are being added to products. But while demand for fresh organics enable steady revenue stream growth, it is not without challenge for food manufacturers to serve and market to savvy consumers. With the use of sorbents however, food product integrity can now be better sustained throughout increasingly long distribution chains, and longer shelf-life expectations.
John F. Solomon is market leader for specialty foods at Multisorb Technologies (Buffalo, N.Y.) Reach him at 972-540-1797 or JSolomon@multisorb.com.