Food packaging technology has developed a lot over the past few decades. The market is continually evolving, with new applications and improvements in manufacturing processes constantly adding to the variety of food packaging solutions available. It is also an essential part of the supply chain management and distribution. The importance of packaging technology can hardly be undersold. A way for ensuring secure delivery of goods to the end user in optimal condition at low cost.
Food packaging is largely affected by the physical and chemical properties of the raw materials used. Physical properties refer to such things as strength, flexibility, and suitability for use as packaging. They influence the rate of which food is able to expand while maintaining its solid form. On the other hand, chemical properties refer to any ability of a substance to be mixed into another substance or to alter its physical form. Thus, water, sugar, and fats are some of the substances that may be combined to form customized mixtures that are then used as packaging for package foods. All these physical properties have advantages and disadvantages depending upon their application.
Packaging technology can help improve quality of service provided by distributors and manufacturers. This means that quality control standards can be met consistently. A properly developed packaging material must have appropriate adhesive strength and flexibility for use as packaging. Poor packaging material must be inefficient in both of these capacities. For example, a plastic bag having low tear-resistant strength may prevent a product from passing through refrigeration without being destroyed.
Another benefit of well-developed packaging materials is that packaging materials that are free of bacterial growth should be used. Growth of harmful bacteria can render products injurious to humans. Such harmful bacteria may be contained by plastics having strong adhesives. Thus, superior packaging materials help ensure the safety of consumers.
The packaging material must also be resistant to changes in temperature. Temperature fluctuations cause many problems in food packaging. Irrigation, aeration, exposure to sunlight, and air-conditioning all have an effect on the properties of food and drink packages. Food packaging material must be able to withstand temperature fluctuations and be resistant to attack by airborne contaminants such as fungi, microorganism, and bacteria. A variety of chemical compounds and physical treatments can help maintain consistency of temperature even during transportation or storage.
The packaging material must also be able to retain moisture in its cured state. Moisture is an enemy of most dried foods. Foods deteriorate faster in heat because they expand and contract at faster rates than their liquids counterparts. In such a scenario, foods stored in an improperly dried condition are likely to lose moisture quicker than those stored in an optimum condition. Packaging materials should also have the capacity to retain air or moisture for a longer period of time.
The ability of packaging to keep foods fresh and preserving their flavor is called photovoltaic or PV technology. PV is applicable both in food processing as well as in food and drink retailing. Food packages made using this technology can retain the original color and texture of foods. They are impervious to sun rays, chemicals as well as moisture. The food package can contain dehydrated and frozen foods. Fresh meat can also be packaged using this technology.
Thermal depolymerization is another important packaging technique used to preserve foods. This process uses water to replace moisture in dried and dehydrated foods. Foods can be kept fresh by being kept in airtight containers, especially those containing ice. Foods kept in this condition can retain a normal temperature.
Heat sealed packaging has gained popularity over the years for the preservation of food. This is accomplished by using metal foils or metal laminates. The heat seal feature of the foil assures a more effective storing capacity than that of other packaging methods such as plastic bags and aluminum foil.
Food preservatives can be produced on demand from moulds such as acetic acid, nitrate salts, pectin, salt, sugar, tartar, sulphur compounds, tannic acid, polysaccharides as well as enzymes. Acetic acid, a natural food preservative, prevents bacterial growth in stored foods. In turn, it inhibits spoilage of stored food. It can also act as a natural antimicrobial for fresh meat and seafood.
Different types of moulds produce varying degrees of moisture resistance. This is important in food spoilage prevention. A variety of molds are available in the market for this purpose, and most of them use artificial bases such as starch, calcium carbonate, silica, and dehydrated starch to obtain moisture resistant products suitable for different food applications.