Since 2017, the Wisconsin-based company has helped US commercial bakeries address the major waste challenge, which sees over 700 million spoiled or expired sell-by loaves of bread being tossed annually, costing the sector around $1.4bn. This represents 12% of the pre-retail food waste for grain products. Another 19% (accounting for $2.2bn) is lost at consumer level, thanks to stale and mouldy bread.
“SoFresh, Inc. is committed to mitigating food spoilage. Our team is dedicated to fighting food waste in the US and throughout the world,” said cofounder, president and CEO Toby Thomas.
The team is headed by Thomas and cofounder and chief technology officer Bill Belias.
“We have been on a 25-year quest to keep food fresh. We are both engineers experienced in bringing innovations to food companies solving their most pressing needs,” said Thomas.
Stopping mould from forming colonies
The duo has developed patent-pending moisture activated materials that use elevated moisture levels of perishable foods to release mould-inhibiting FDA-approved vapour, which stops mould spores from multiplying and forming colonies. This enables bakeries to extend their onshelf time from four day to 14-16 days.
“SoFresh has commercialised packaging for the bakery industry and our early adopters are realising 4X the shelf life of preservative-free baked goods, saving them big money,” said Thomas.
“We have trials ongoing with more than 30 small to very large wholesale bakeries, including three top 10 bakeries in North America.”
He added the company is also working with several big box stores and major retailers to deliver 1-2 extra days of shelf life to fresh baked goods instore, along with thaw-n-sell products. The packaging enables goods to retain their clean label status by eliminating Calcium Propionate, ascorbic acid, vinegar, raisin extract and cultured wheat (known as propionic acid).
Clean label solution
“Today, we are helping clean label preservative-free bread companies extend their onshelf time,” said Thomas, noting the majority of the company's customer base produce organic, natural, gluten-free, low-carb or keto baked goods with a very short shelf-life.
“One of our case studies customers took their expired returns from 30% all the way down to 2% by switching to SoFresh bread bags.
“This waste reduction saved our customer 28% in cost of goods, increased sales revenue by 28% and gained 28% more bakery production time eliminating the built-in over-production for bakery food waste. In today's labour shortage, additional free capacity with same labour costs is a primary driver for our growth and extremely important to bakeries.”
How it works
Thomas explained the company’s breakthrough technology works by wrapping food in an atmosphere of food grade, mould-inhibited vapour that extends product travel life, shelf life and consumption time.
The technology infuses USDA-approved natural extracts into film or containers that emit controlled active vapour inside a food package. Mould spors absorb the vapour, which slows down their metabolism to the point where it is difficult for them to thrive.
The vapour is safe for humans, and is odourless, tasteless and leaves no residue. It works with a bakers’ current packaging, supplied in the form of printed or clear bread bags.
The result is an extended shelf life up to 30 days, which has a significant impact on manufacturing and logistic costs.
The technology enables the reduction of flavour loss and preservative taste challenges, improves consumer perception through high moisture bread, eliminates consumer and retail returns, increases dough pH and enables bakers to produce better-for-you goods at premium prices.
It will also eliminate refrigeration costs, replaces expensive ingredients with higher moisture levels and increases a baker’s capital utilisation ratio.
New categories in 2022
In 2022, SoFresh is extending the technology to inhibit mould in the berry supply chain with packaging materials for strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. It is also commercialising cheese packaging that inhibits mould growth by eliminating natamycin and extending the useful life of shredded, slice and block cheese for consumers.
“And with resources, we drive food waste savings for other perishable foods like bacon bits (eliminate the oxygen absorber inside packaging), fresh-cut broccoli and cauliflower that spoils by black mould spots, and fresh refrigerated pet foods,” added Thomas.