MAP Packaging 101: Understanding the Basics and Benefits
Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is an innovative packaging technique in the food industry. MAP atmosphere technologies extend the shelf life of packaged food products to remain fresh and safe for consumption.
MAP packaging is a highly effective technique for preserving food items by altering the environment within the package. This method successfully safeguards food against spoilage and extends its shelf life by controlling factors such as:
- Enzymatic reactions
How Does MAP Packaging Work?
Oxygen plays a critical role in lipid oxidation reactions that can negatively impact the shelf life. Additionally, high oxygen levels can cause accelerated respiration rates, ultimately leading to shorter lifespans and diminished quality.
The presence of moisture and oxygen is a breeding ground for aerobic spoilage. This poses a threat to your product’s quality and integrity. In addition, the growth of other harmful microorganisms may also become a possibility. Certain temperatures and even the presence of light can encourage growth.
MAP technologies reduce oxygen levels inside packages. This prevents spoilage since many microorganisms require oxygen to survive. Packaging materials include low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These permeable packaging materials allow the desired atmosphere to develop over time.
MAP packaging commonly uses these gasses used in gas mixtures during the packaging process:
- Oxygen promotes aerobic conditions when needed. For example, it keeps fresh meat bright red.
- Nitrogen effectively replaces oxygen and reduces the chance of product degradation when it fills a package. It is an inert gas, so it doesn’t harm food products.
- Carbon dioxide has bacteriostatic and fungistatic properties, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi. It’s an ideal choice for keeping fresh meat, poultry, ready meals, and baked goods fresher for longer.
- Carbon monoxide maintains meat’s vibrant and appealing red color when used in small quantities for MAP packaging.
How is MAP Packaging Beneficial?
MAP packaging is safe and a practical addition to good hygienic practices.
Extended Shelf Life
Food decay occurs naturally due to the activity of bacteria, enzymes, and oxidation reactions. Modifying the internal packaging atmosphere will slow down processes that can cause deterioration. The product boasts a longer shelf life without compromising its safety and appeal.
Food quality goes beyond ensuring safety. Attributes like taste, texture, color, and smell contribute to the overall product quality. MAP packaging creates a conducive environment within the packaging, slowing down the degradation process. For example, controlling oxygen levels preserves the fresh red color of meat.
Reduced Use of Preservatives
Many manufacturers treat food items with chemical preservatives to extend their shelf life. Although the quantities used in these additives are generally safe, some consumers prefer foods with fewer additives or minimal processing. MAP as food packaging is an alternative to extend the shelf life of products.
Increases Market Reach
Businesses using MAP packaging can store and transport products with a longer shelf life without spoiling. With this advantage, businesses can expand their market reach. They can sell their products in outlying locations. Distance or transportation time won’t negatively affect the area for product distribution.
Implementing MAP packaging comes with costs for a business. However, the savings from reduced product loss due to spoilage can offset the expenses. Expanding your reach to distant markets can significantly boost your sales and profitability.
Flexible Packaging Options
Using MAP is versatile as it can cater to various packaging types and materials that align with the product’s requirements. Fresh meat or fish are best stored in rigid trays. And cheese or snack foods are better suited for bags or pouches. Businesses can choose the most suitable packaging for their products without limitations associated with other preservation methods.