When taking a sealed bag from the shelf in the store, consumers may assume that content's freshness is assured. The cookies or fruit or candy will only be at risk of getting stale after the bag is opened.
Qualities like freshness, crispness, and taste are high-priority functions of food packaging. But in reality packaging's protection of the contents of a bag is limited to an extent. And that depends upon the design and quality of the food packaging.
A teeth-cracking hard protein bar or a soggy cookie can scare away consumers from brands, no matter how good the food package design is. There are two great villains that cause a food product to deteriorates inside the packaging.
MVTR and OTR for Best Food Packaging
The Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR)—also called the Water Vapor Penetration Rate (WVPR)--is a measure of how much moisture gets into food packaging over a certain time interval. Depending upon the content and how long it is exposed, the results can vary greatly.
The Oxygen Transmission Rate (OTR) is a measure of the product's exposure inside the food packaging to oxygen. Oxidation of the product in the bag is the chief contributor to what we called staleness—a diminution of the qualities of texture and taste.
If these problems are not anticipated during the planning stages, then unfortunately the customer experience may be negatively impacted. Consumers may or may not check for a use-by date on the bag—and the reliability of the freshness date, of course, is limited by appropriate packaging.
At Carepac, we are dedicated to food product safety and go to great lengths to ensure your product packaging design is up to date with the highest standards. Fortunately, there are reliable standards for measuring MVTR and OTR and, in addition, accurate instruments for making those measurements.
International Standards and Accurate Packaging Testing
Both the vapor and gas are measured using tests defined by two standards:
ASTM International, as the name implies, is an international standards organization. It works out and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for many products and services. (Formerly it was called the American Society for Testing and Materials.)
The International Organization for Standardization performs the same functions, bringing together representatives from national standards organizations to develop and publish worldwide technical, industrial, and commercial standards.
Referring to these organizations, Carepac can monitor international standards defined for tests that measure MVTR and OTR. One leading provider of the specialized equipment needed to perform these tests is MOCON.
Calculating Packaging's Barrier Against Penetration
One useful and reliable calculator of the barrier against moisture or oxygen provided by a given packaging is the Norner Barrier Calculator (a free version can be accessed here: https://barrier.norner.no/).
The calculator allows you to select different packaging geometries such as film, cup, bottle, and cuboid. This simulates your target packaging design. The calculating models then put out an estimate of the water vapor or oxygen transmission rate through various plastics, including, of course, packaging material.
Barrier properties of limited types of packaging can be best studied by this means and changes in layers, geometry, and in-mold label can be tested and compared. The results make the calculator a highly useful tool for designing and developing packaging with reliable performance in protecting different products in different conditions of storage and exposure.
Typically, the tests measure the number of grams that are lost or gained through a barrier over a given period, such as 24 hours. Since transmission through a package (or its penetration) is to be controlled, the lower the readout, the better. A number lower than 1 gram is considered a high barrier.
The challenges: finding the barrier level required by a product
Putting this in context is a top priority since it’s a common misconception among most brands. Not every packaged product needs the highest achievable barrier. Here are some data to exemplify:
- A foil barrier is "highest": .0006
- Polyethylene (PE) (for example, bread bags): 14-20
- Polyethylene terephthalate/polyethylene (PET/PE): 3
Because creating packaging with a higher barrier sometimes increases manufacturers costs, the good package for you is the one that protects your specific product under conditions it will face for the time required. The end goal, of course, is that in every package that is purchased and opened, a consumer finds a fresh and tasty product that says the best about your brand.
Finding your bag's design
When you work with Carepac on packaging (or repackaging) your product, our graphics design team and manufacturers are experts and begin by understanding your business, what your product says about your brand, how it is prepared for packaging, how it is best shipped and stored, and for what period of time it should be able to remain fresh at the point of purchase. Part of that process for consumable products is testing them inside bags of different materials and manufacturing. That should direct the selection of materials used with the required barrier properties but not redundantly high, which increases your budget. When there is a selection of comparable quality materials and designs, then budget considerations (and possibly your manufacturing deadline) become paramount.
At the same time, the Carepac teams addresses every aspect of your packaging, such as the shape for different types of display and the crucial decision on appearance of the label. We make sure your food packaging is set in top notch condition in front of your customers. That is because the package and its appealing graphics are the prime point-of-purchase marketing features to close the sale. And naturally, your product's reputation with consumers for freshness is indispensable for repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising.
Starting your Supply Chain
Your first step is as easy as visiting our website for information for your business about every phase of creating packaging that protects the product, helps to sell it at the top point of sale, and fits your budget. Our online estimator can give you an instant price estimate for your bag as you now conceive it. The choices you will make in consultation with us are explained in the relevant sections of the site, with many examples to clarify your choice for your supply chain and give you a picture of what your product will look like in the store—be it brick-and-mortar or online.
When you are ready to discuss a specific order, which can begin with a planning and design session with our range of experts, just get in touch with us. And check back here to see our regular blogs where you can do some reading about challenges, opportunities, and solutions in packaging market.
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