When it comes to grapes, the challenge is that they begin to deteriorate as soon as they are picked. So extending grape shelf life is critical to helping grocery stores save money and to also address the food waste issue.
Packaging and shipping grapes in Expandable Polystyrene (EPS) increases the shelf life dramatically when packed in corrugated cardboard. Richard Lindenmuth, chairman of Styrotek, recently took some time to discuss the packaging, and how it can be applied to other industries.
Can you explain what EPS is and how it helps extend shelf life for grapes?
Expanded Polystyrene, knows as EPS (not to be confused with Styrofoam) is a lightweight foam product that is 100 percent recyclable as it is made up of 98 percent air and 2 percent recyclable plastic.
Table grapes packed in EPS packaging stay fresher for longer periods of time giving them an extended shelf life up to 120 days vs 10 days in corrugated boxes. How? By protecting them, reducing the amount of moisture within the packaging, and maintaining the cold chain process. Our EPS packaging is durable and can withstand bumps and movement, insulated so they shield against high temperatures and humidity, lightweight and easy to move around. Our packaging containers ensure that juicy, quality grapes reach the produce aisle for the customer who is making the decision to buy or not to buy.
EPS does not absorb moisture so quality is maintained, corrugated absorbs moisture which accelerates spoilage. EPS can stack two to three pallets high for long periods of time while preserving grape quality, corrugated can only stack two boxes high for short periods and boxes begin to sag after two weeks (including coated boxes).
Stacking strength is particularly important when the grape boxes are stacked high in cold storage because collapse at the bottom damages the grapes. There is less chemical residue with EPS, because it does not absorb Sulphur dioxide as opposed to corrugated that does absorb so more is added as needed. EPS containers are usually packed with less interior packaging, so they can be forced air cooled as quickly as corrugated. EPS is light and weighs 1.1 lbs. which reduces trucking weight, corrugated weighs more about 1.8 to 1.9 lbs.
Why is it so important to extend the shelf life of grapes?
More than 99 percent of grapes commercially grown in the United States come from California and are produced May through December. Grapes are big business and real economics. Pre-harvest grape season begins May 1, and currently, about 50 percent of the grapes are shipped in corrugated boxes with a shelf life of less than 10 days and 20 percent waste. EPS is second to corrugated boxes with a 35 percent market share. Extended shelf life saves grocery stores money because of less damage and waste.
Why is EPS better for the environment than Styrofoam?
Expanded Polystyrene, knows as EPS (not to be confused with Styrofoam) is a lightweight foam product that is 100 percent recyclable as it is made up of 98 percent air and 2 percent recyclable plastic, which makes it reusable for products such as bike helmets, surf boards, picture frames.
Contrary to popular belief, EPS makes up only about 1 percent of landfill space, compared to over 25 percent for paper and cardboard. EPS is ozone friendly and completely free of CFCs – chlorofluorocarbons, HCFCs – hydrochlorofluorocarbons, HFCs – hydrofluorocarbons and formaldehyde
What are some practical applications for this packaging beyond grapes?
Our packaging can be used for many kinds of berries such as strawberries and blueberries. Additionally, we also supply our packaging for other types of food as well as to the pharmaceutical industry. We invested in new technology and equipment. We have the ability to manufacture our products quickly with no additional permits needed. We have the supply chain. And, most importantly, we have a committed workforce to do the work.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our company was founded by table grape growers for table grape growers and our ultimate customers – the consumer. We have more than 40 years of experience and commitment to fresh grape and produce transport.
It’s important to understand, unlike some other fruit that ripen after harvest (bananas, pears), grapes immediately deteriorate as soon as they come off the vine. And contributing to that deterioration: inconsistent temperatures (high temperature and low humidity) from the time they are picked to the time they reach the grocery store aisle. (Fifty to 75 percent of storage life is spent in a truck.) Why? High temperatures and low humidity after picking causes water loss from the stems and this will increase the rate of deterioration. Much of the water loss and damage of grapes is due to water absorbed by paper and corrugated packaging. So, the aim of post-harvest treatment of table grapes is to limit deterioration. Styrotek EPS table grape packaging does that.
And our packaging is durable and can withstand bumps and movement, insulated so they shield against high temperatures and humidity, lightweight and easy to move around. Our packaging containers ensure that juicy quality grapes reach the produce aisle as the customer makes the decision to buy or not to buy.
For more information: http://www.styrotek.com.