Israel-based packaging company StePacPPC is releasing a new type of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) specifically catered to protecting mushrooms. It aims to protect a range of mushrooms, from whole and sliced white mushrooms to more ‘exotic’ kinds, such as shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane, and portabello.
Mushrooms have a very short shelf life, usually just a few days, and the packaging works to extend it, as well as maintaining flavour, texture and nutrition, preventing weight lost, and helping mushrooms to maintain their natural appearance. Thereby, it reduces food waste. According to Roni Sofer, VP of marketing for Marina Galilee Mushrooms, Ltd., the packaging can reduce waste by up to 35%.
The company first tested out its packaging during the pandemic, helping farmers keep backlogs of oyster mushrooms for longer.
While MAP can be used for a variety of foods, StePacPPC’s is specifically targeted towards mushrooms, as they are heavily affected by moisture loss. The packaging helps prevent this.
“Optimal modified atmosphere and removal of excess moisture are critical in preserving the quality and slowing the deterioration of fresh mushrooms. After considerable research, we have succeeded in achieving both of these, which has enabled us to maximize shelf life of the mushrooms,” Gary Ward, Ph.D., CTO for StePacPPC, told FoodNavigator.
MAP packaging is in fairly widespread use, but StePacPPC has a specific focus: keeping out the moisture and protecting the mushrooms.
“One major differentiating factor is that StePacPPC specializes in the development of advanced polymer films with a range of water vapor transmission rates (WVTR) to manage humidity in the packaging headspace. This is critical component of modified atmosphere packaging,” Ward told us.
“With produce items that are sensitive to moisture such as mushrooms, it is important to remove excess moisture from the packaging headspace, but if you remove too much the mushrooms will dehydrate. Tweaking the WVTR properties in accordance with the produce that is being packed and the prevailing supply chain is key to providing optimal MAP and this is our area of expertise.” Not only does the packaging keep moisture out, but expels excess moisture as well.
MAPping the market
Mushrooms are an increasingly popular fungus, with many vegetarian and vegan consumers valuing it for its meat like umami texture, and its ‘health halo’ (mushrooms have many health benefits – for example, lion’s main aids with cognition and shiitake promotes immunity, according to the ingredients company Wixon).
“In addition, cultivation of mushrooms is one of the most sustainable areas of agriculture,” Ward told us.
According to US-based management consultancy Emergen Research, the worldwide mushroom market was worth $50.4b in 2021.
However, Ward views their short shelf-life as an inhibition, preventing them from achieving their full market potential. Thus, he is proud of StePacPPC’s packaging’s ability to extend their shelf life significantly beyond its natural span.
“Achieving 18 days storage is a major achievement and probably meets the requirements of most existing mushroom supply chains. If we are successful in extending the preservation time even further then of course it would be welcome, but we also realize that there is a limit to how much you can extend the physiological life of produce.”