The additive, called Infinite, works by absorbing the natural ripening hormone, ethylene.
It’s Fresh! spent around four years developing the active ingredient – a proprietary blend of minerals and clay – while the ‘Infinite film’ delivery system took a further three years.
The active ingredient can be printed directly onto existing packaging for fruit, vegetables and flowers.
Retailers and producers currently use ethylene filters which can extend the life and quality of fruit by two to four days. It’s Fresh!, which also manufactures such filters, said its new product has the added benefit of reducing the need for more plastic as it combines what is currently used in-pack – the ethylene filter – with the existing film.
The coating is more efficient than other methods currently used because it is non-invasive and can be used in packs of ‘naked’ untreated or uncoated fruit, said It’s Fresh!, a division of chemical supplier Food Freshness Technology Holdings.
According to co-founder Simon Lee, the product can be described as “purposeful packaging”.
“It is genuinely helping to reduce food wastage and which will, in turn, reduce the amount of packaging needed overall as the produce lasts longer,” Lee told FoodNavigator.
“The packaging of fruit and veg is a sophisticated and highly skilled industry. It does not exist merely to increase 'real estate' for marketing purposes but to protect and maintain freshness and quality during its journey through the supply chain and into the home.
“Why do we wrap leftover food in cling film or foil or put in airtight containers? To stop the food deteriorating by having contact with the air or any other contaminants that are present.
“Without a mechanism to control the deterioration of freshness and quality – much of the fruit and veg we consume will be picked, packed, shipped,
stored, merchandised and wasted before we have time to eat it,” he added.
Packaging for fruit and vegetables tends to be plastic but Infinite active can be added to other substrates such as carton, paper, board and plastic substitutes.
“We do not rely on plastic packaging as the only delivery method. As the industry evolves – our technology is flexible enough to deliver what is required,” Lee said.
The added cost to manufacturers and retailers is “less than a few pennies”, he added.
The company has been trialling its technology on strawberries, blueberries, cherries and bananas in storage and in transit.
Polish blueberries kept in packaging with the mineral coating and stored for six weeks had 40% less waste than those without, it said.
Meanwhile, French retailer Carrefour, which already uses It’s Fresh! products, commissioned an independent laboratory to test the difference. It found that batches of French strawberries saw shelf life and quality improve by nearly 50% compared to control packs.
UK retailer Morrisons is due to begin Infinite trials on packs of berries.