A recent series of studies confirm that IFCO reusable plastic containers (RPCs) can extend the shelf life of fresh produce in comparison to single use packaging by up to four days. For retailers and growers, this means reduced spoilage, less waste and better quality of products for their customers. Fruits and vegetables packed in IFCO RPCs stay fresher and more appealing, and last longer for consumers.
In fresh-food retailing, quality often matters more than price. Consumers choose fruits and vegetables that look fresh and are firm to the touch. By partnering with IFCO, retailers ensure that consumers get the freshest produce possible. Now research findings confirm that fruits and vegetables packed in IFCO reusable plastic containers (RPCs) stay in better condition longer than in single use packaging. The studies verify that IFCO RPCs extend the shelf life of fresh produce by up to four days.
As part of IFCO’s ongoing research and development, we commissioned Dr. Lippert Quality Management (formerly HortKinetix) in Sinzig, Germany, which inspects commodities for the country’s wholesalers. The researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables packed in IFCO RPCs remained firmer, showed less mold, had fresher vines and stems, and that a higher percentage remained marketable. Here are excerpts from the findings:
Muskmelons/melons: Shelf life was extended by four days, and “stem health of melons are significantly better.”
Tomatoes: Shelf life was extended by two days, and studies found “vine condition was “statistically better.”
Mushrooms: Shelf life was extended by two days and product quality was 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 all the way from the grower, to distribution center, to retailer, to consumer. Tomatoes and mushrooms were harvested directly into RPCs or single use packaging while grapes and melons were repacked at the wholesaler. The fresh produce was 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, Brix, acidity.
Based on these criteria, the researchers determined that IFCO RPCs preserved the freshness of the fruits and vegetables tested better than single use packaging. Their report states that packaging plays a major role in protecting the products to avoid losses, as well as 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
As the studies confirm, ventilation provided by IFCO RPCs is key to maintaining proper cold chain 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. This is why it makes sense to package fresh produce in IFCO RPCs.
Contact IFCO for more information on the benefits of reusable plastic containers on maintaining product freshness and quality. Our experts will advise you on which RPC model is optimal for your produce.