Why fresh produce lasts longer in IFCO reusable plastic containers (RPCs)

written by Wolfgang Orgeldinger, 5th July 2019, in CEO Insights

What many consumers don’t know is that packaging can have a significant effect on how long fruits and vegetables stay fresh. New research findings confirm that fresh produce packed in IFCO RPCs stays in better condition longer than in single use packaging. Our IFCO RPCs extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by up to four days.

As part of IFCO’s ongoing research and development, we commissioned a series of studies from Dr. Lippert Quality Management (formerly HortKinetix) in Sinzig, Germany, which inspects commodities for the country’s wholesalers. The results of these tests verified that fruits and vegetables packaged in IFCO RPCs remain firmer, show less mold, and have fresher vines and stems. Also, a higher percentage of produce remains marketable. This extension of shelf life puts more profits to the retailer’s bottom line, and reduces food waste.

"Our reusable plastic containers extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by up to four days."

Here some examples of the findings from the report:

Muskmelons: Shelf life was extended by four days, and "stem health of melons was significantly better."

Tomatoes: Shelf life was extended by two days, and the studies found "vine condition was statistically better."

Mushrooms: Shelf life was extended by two days, and the product quality maintained, as "the rate of the discoloration was slower."

Grapes: IFCO RPCs extended shelf life by one day, and the tests proved "the percentage of marketable grapes was consistently higher."

Testing for freshness

The experts at Dr. Lippert QM designed the trials to model real-life supply chain conditions. The fresh produce was harvested directly into IFCO RPCs or single use packaging, and kept under chilled or ambient temperatures or both, depending on the product. For up to 19 days, the scientists used both non-destructive and destructive testing to evaluate products daily on commodity-specific indicators for freshness: Color, vine health, shore value, weight loss, spoilage, infection, rot, mold, appearance, smell, sweetness, acidity.

Based on commodity-specific criteria, the researchers determined that IFCO RPCs preserved the freshness of the fruits and vegetables better than single use packaging. Their report states that packaging plays a major role in protecting the products to avoid losses, and in maintaining quality and freshness. They concluded that IFCO RPCs offer many benefits, and in some instances result in "significant" differences in the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The effects of ventilation

IFCO RPCs are designed to provide superior ventilation and cold chain protection, which helps remove field heat at harvest and ensure faster cooling and optimal temperature throughout the supply chain. As the studies confirm, the ventilation provided by IFCO RPCs is key to maintaining proper temperature and moisture along the entire supply chain. "The main difference to single use packaging is that ventilation in IFCO RPCs provides superior air circulation," says crop scientist Philipp Loer, who conducted the trials. Dr. Lippert QM is a spin-off of the agricultural department of the University Bonn, and the team has extensive expertise in auditing and inspecting at all stages of the fresh produce supply chain. "A positive effect was visible on the quality of the products, resulting in shelf life up to four days longer," adds Loer.

With IFCO RPCs, retailers reduce waste from spoilage and damage. Through optimal cold chain protection, retailers can also extend shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables in the homes of their consumers, adding value, loyalty, and increased repeat purchases. In fresh-food retailing, quality often matters more than price – consumers choose fruits and vegetables that look fresh and are firm to the touch. Our IFCO RPCs ensure that the retailers receive the freshest produce possible. And now, evidence shows that IFCO RPCs extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, so they stay fresher longer.

Source: Comparison of the ventilation of different IFCO RPCs and its effect on freshness and saleability of different fruits and vegetables, Dr. Lippert QM (formerly HortKinetix), in cooperation with IFCO SYSTEMS.

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