Shelf Life Extending Packaging Solutions for Produce Growers

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. 

In this installment, we chat with Brandon Taggart, Crawford’s Packaging Specialist and Project Manager, about shelf life extending packaging solutions for produce.

What are the key challenges in extending the shelf life of fresh produce? 

Extending the shelf life of fresh produce is a complex task. The key challenges include managing the respiration rate, maintaining optimal temperatures and humidity, minimizing physical damage, preventing microbial growth, and choosing appropriate packaging materials, among others. Additionally, different types of produce have unique requirements. For example, if you pick mini cucumbers and pack them immediately into bags, they won’t have time to cool down, which can result in sweating. To preserve their quality and storability, it’s important to promptly cool them to optimal temperatures thereby reducing respiration rates and preserving freshness. 

Can you explain the importance of shelf-life extension for both retailers and consumers? 

Yes, absolutely. The single, most important factor behind extending shelf life is food waste. In Canada, fruits and vegetables make up 45% of food waste, which is a very significant number. This not only has financial implications but also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, worsening climate change, and other related problems. Fortunately, there are many packaging solutions available in the market to mitigate these challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because each type of produce is unique. One example is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) Liner Bags designed for bulk vegetables and fruits. These bags incorporate life extension technology, which effectively increases shelf life by slowing down the aging process and respiration rate, all while managing condensation inside the bag. 


That’s very interesting. Can you speak more about these technologies? How do they work? 

Yes, so as I mentioned each type of produce is different. That’s why at Crawford, we offer a diverse range of solutions. We have a variety of polybags, lidding films, flow wrap films, and pallet shrouds, all made from high-barrier materials. They can have precise laser perforations which are very important as they enrich the modified atmosphere with sufficient relative humidity, effectively inhibiting weight loss. Without getting too technical, this approach also prevents a water-saturated atmosphere, adding valuable days to the shelf life of produce. There is certainly more to it and we’re continually exploring innovative products to provide our customers with the latest, best-in-class packaging solutions. 


That’s wonderful! Can you please provide examples of successful cases where these technologies have significantly extended the shelf life of fresh produce

Certainly! We conducted a one-week trial comparing standard LDPE polybags to our GrowPack Life Extension Bags. This trial simulated common industry practices where mini cucumbers are packed into bags immediately after being harvested and they may sit on pallets in coolers or travel on trucks across North America for up to a week until they are finally ready to be packed into pouch bags or trays. The cucumbers may sit for up to one week which means that the technology of these life extension bags should not be understated. The results of our study were very impressive. Cucumbers in the GrowPack Life Extension Bags remained dry and crisp, while those in standard polybags, with minimal ventilation, suffered from moisture buildup, leading to decay and bacteria growth. Let me show you a picture: 

Wow, that’s very impressive! What a difference! And what other trends are you observing in the market? 

I’m seeing an increased demand for locally grown berries in greenhouses. Currently, these berries are packed in PET Clamshells and shipped to retail. They have a very short shelf life and there is a significant opportunity for growers to explore using lidding film to create a controlled environment, ultimately extending the shelf life of these delicate fruits, and meeting the demand for fresh, local produce. 

To learn more about Crawford Packaging solutions for fresh produce, please visit: