Extended Freshness: The Benefits of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) for Produce

Packaging plays a vital role in today’s fast-paced business landscape, ensuring product protection, preservation, and presentation. As the packaging industry continues to grow and adapt to changing market demands, it’s crucial for companies to stay ahead and offer exceptional packaging solutions. To provide insights into this dynamic landscape, we have developed Packaging Talks – a series of conversational panels with Crawford’s packaging experts. Whether you’re a business owner, a packaging professional, or simply curious, our panels aim to offer valuable information and inspiration. 

This month, we chat with Doug Crowe, Crawford’s Director of Business Development, about the benefits of Modified Atmosphere Packaging for fresh produce.


What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) and how does it work for fresh produce?

Modified Atmosphere Packaging, or MAP, is an innovative, functional packaging technology used to extend the shelf life of fresh produce, including both fruits and vegetables. It involves altering the atmosphere inside the packaging by reducing the amount of oxygen and increasing levels of other gases like carbon dioxide and nitrogen. This modified environment slows down the respiration rate of fresh produce, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause spoilage.


That’s very interesting. Can you elaborate on the benefits of this packaging?

Sure! Essentially, by carefully controlling the gas composition, MAP packaging helps maintain the freshness of fruits and vegetables. It also helps retain the nutritional quality and taste of the produce by slowing down degradation processes.

Very often, fresh produce travels thousands of miles before reaching store shelves. This type of packaging extends the shelf life of produce and, most importantly, reduces food waste, which in North America alone has reached very alarming levels. It’s incredible how often we hear about reducing or fully eliminating packaging, when in fact packaging is the number one contributor to reducing food waste. Statistics widely available on how much food is being wasted these days are staggering and very humbling at the same time, and they clearly indicate that we need packaging.


Absolutely, and it is something that we as consumers don’t always think about. Do you have any real-life examples of MAP packaging in action that you can share with us?

Yes, I have many examples but let me tell you about broccoli. Traditionally, broccoli, if grown for example in Mexico, has been placed in boxes on ice for transportation overseas to Canada or the US. Think about the amount of ice needed to cover the volumes of broccoli, the weight of these bulk boxes, the labour required to package everything, the need for using more expensive lined boxes for this, not to mention the freight cost of transporting so much weight. With modified atmosphere packaging used for bulk produce, all you need is a regular cardboard box lined with a MAP bulk bag. You insert the broccoli and tie it at the top. And this is just one of many examples – not only does it prolong the shelf life, but it also simplifies the packaging process and saves costs.

Great example! You mentioned broccoli, what other applications is MAP suitable for?

I would say any application, although it’s important to note that every fruit and vegetable type is different and therefore requires a very different approach to how it’s packaged. Fortunately, there is substantial research available and solutions for every need. With this being said, MAP packaging is particularly beneficial for highly perishable items, as well as for products that are transported over long distances or stored for extended periods. By extending the shelf life, it allows retailers to maintain a more consistent stock of fresh produce, reducing the frequency of stockouts and the costs associated with spoilage. For growers, MAP opens new market opportunities by enabling them to ship their produce further without compromising on quality. Ultimately, adopting this type of packaging can lead to improved profitability, sustainability, and customer loyalty. If you’d like to learn more about it, please reach out to Crawford Packaging, and we’ll be happy to assist you.

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