Over the last few decades, as supply chains have become more complex, gas flushing products as they are packaged has become a requirement for many sensitive products to keep them fresh and appealing to consumers throughout their full life cycle.
When you’re making the decision to invest in MAP packaging, of course it’s easy to get excited about the potential benefits of extended shelf life, greater sustainability, and better product protection. But it's important that your solution excels in a handful of key factors to make sure you're getting the full benefit out of your investment in machinery and the gas you'll be using over the next couple of decades.
What is MAP Packaging?
MAP stands for Modified Atmosphere Packaging. This packaging strategy is used by many industries, including food and beverage, healthcare, retail, and pharmaceuticals. MAP is a broad term that can look different across many industries, packaging machines and product types, but with similar priorities and outcomes.
The purpose of MAP packaging is to limit or alter how oxygen interacts with products during transportation. By adjusting gas levels inside a container or package, manufacturers can help maintain the freshness in packaged goods throughout their journey from production plant to consumer pantry. MAP is more common than most consumers notice, as almost all retail coffee products, some premium snacks and even fresh fruits and vegetables are kept fresher for longer with the use of gas flushing, oxygen scavengers or other tactics.
There are a handful of key considerations that will help you to make the most of your MAP operation.
Maximize Your Seal Strength
Of course, it's important to get oxygen levels down as low as possible. However, if you don't pay attention to your seal strength, or attempt to save money on your machinery solution or your film, you may be wasting expensive gas and time spent on packaging. If your seals aren't strong enough, they won't hold up over time and will eventually let oxygen back into your package. This can turn a shelf-stable product into one that leaves a bad impression on a customer or retailer. That's bad for business—and worst case scenario, your customers' health!
For achieving the highest level of seal integrity in the industry, ROVEMA customers rely on Premium Seal® technology, which gives them the ability to set up a two phase sealing process that preheats the film prior to sealing.
Your Film Barrier Properties
Obviously, this is specific to flexible packaging, but your film's barrier properties are a second key cornerstone of your modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) strategy with their role being to keep ambient air out of the package. Plastic at a microscopic level is porous, so most high barrier films are comprised of multiple layers of different materials that contribute to the barrier integrity of the film.
When it comes to sustainability, of course minimizing the amount of packaging material needed for each unit is key, but so is making sure that products don't spoil before making it through the entire supply chain. A tremendous amount of resources go into producing foods- water, sunlight, oxygen, etc., all contributing to the carbon footprint. So it's imperative that the packaging brings it all the way home (literally).
Minimize Gas Loss When Flushing
If you're gas flushing as a part of your MAP strategy, the gas used (often nitrogen) to flush the residual O2 from your packages isn't cheap, regardless of whether you're able to make it onsite or having it trucked in, so it's imperative to the success of your MAP operation that your packaging equipment is a good steward of these gasses. ROVEMA's gas flushing solution for powders, AromaPerm® is a completely closed system that pushes gas from multiple points within the components about the vffs machine. This provides significantly more efficiency and minimizes gas loss or giveaway.
Minimize Residual Oxygen
Flushing from multiple points within the auger filling is also a great way for our customers to achieve extremely low residual oxygen levels. How low of residual oxygen is feasible for a powder product like ground coffee? Often as low as less than 1%.
Another tool that many producers use, particularly if their products innately hold a lot of air or they cannot get their residual oxygen low enough is by using oxygen scavenger products that can be dosed into each pouch. These can be incorporated in a wide variety of different ways, many of which can be integrated with a ROVEMA VFFS machine.
Finding the Right Feasible and Sustainable Solution
When it comes to the longevity and safety of your products, you always have to strike a balance between the cost of your inputs to satisfy your customers' needs and your margin to support your internal stakeholders. When it comes to many of the above cornerstones, just finding the right packaging solution for your products that has the sealing capabilities, OEE and output speeds you need can help you achieve them in a feasible and reliable way.
If you're evaluating VFFS solutions for your products and need a tool to help break down additional specifics, I recommend downloading our free comparison matrix spreadsheet. It's a good starting point for evaluating different vendors and machine specs and can help you understand where ROVEMA falls on the spectrum for many critical factors.