Convenient opening mechanisms such as pull-tab or peel-off lids ease the opening of tin cans. This is particularly handy when out of home. Photo: Initiative Lebensmitteldose
Packaging for Eternity
Some foods last for eternity – and this is not meant in the theological sense of the word. Rice in air-tight packaging actually lasts for up to two years and mineral water in unopened bottles can be stored for an unlimited period in a dark and cool storage. Vinegar, sugar and salt don’t even have an official best-before date. Various preservation methods such as boiling down, freezing or freeze-drying can also prolong the shelf-life of quickly perishable products. Nonetheless, packaging is indispensable for preserving food. Be it glass, plastic or metal – those wanting to store foodstuffs over an extended period of time cannot avoid it.
Packaging protects goods from detrimental environmental influences – dirt, micro-organisms or light. Without its air-tight and lightproof carton UHT milk would not last very long – despite pasteurization.
Shoppers, however, often want to see the packaged goods; this applies especially to fresh produce. At the same time sensitive goods must be protected against light but some foodstuffs are only affected by specific wavelengths. In this case quality packaging can protect in a targeted manner. And still – the right packaging is a tight-rope walk because a deviating spectrum of light can change the product colour perception which might in turn irritate shoppers.
VIDEO: How do I open a classic tin can without a can opener?
The Tin Can
Tin cans are a classic among the “long-term packaging” options. For over 200 years food cans have been reliable companions when it comes to protecting food. Rugged tin plate with an elastic inner lining makes sure that the contents also remain intact when the can is exposed to impact. Applications are wide and varied: there is canned soup, canned stew, canned bread, canned cake, canned butter, canned meat, canned cheese and even canned hamburgers. Sealed air-tight the packaging turns into a “safe” for freshness and quality. This way food can be stored up to three years without suffering any quality losses – often even longer.
Proving particularly popular for out-of-home consumption are micro portions – served in so-called bowls. Most of them come with a convenient peel-off lid allowing the can also to be opened without a can opener.
Another way of packaging food safely and conveniently is to fill it into stand-up pouches. This lightweight and space-saving packaging is suitable for dry and liquid content. To stop beverages or yoghurt from spilling a disc cap is integrated into the pouch. For freeze-dried or ground food the pouch is usually fitted with a pull tab and resealable pressure lock. This allows the packaging to be reclosed after conveniently taking out contents.
Packaging must fulfil special requirements in extreme situations. During mountain hiking in the Himalayas, rafting tours in the Grand Canyon or in crisis and war zones meals can be prepared right in the packaging. Photo: Food for Adventure
Stand up pouches in particularly rugged aluminium laminate are specifically designed for outdoor meals during trekking, biking or rafting tours or in crisis and war zones since meals can be prepared in them by adding hot water.
Avoiding Food Losses
In view of the high number of people suffering from hunger worldwide the theme “protection of food” has moved up on the global agenda. Initiatives like ‘SAVE FOOD’ – an alliance between the FAO, UN Environment and Messe Düsseldorf and members from industry, research and non-governmental organisations – work out various solutions and implement concrete projects to reduce food losses and waste worldwide.
Emergency Food drinking water packaged in aluminium stand-up pouches can be kept for over 10 years. Photo: Convar Europe Ltd
The best-before date has been under discussion for quite a while now. Often misunderstood or wrongly interpreted it causes tons of edible food to be disposed of unnecessarily. Many consumers assume the goods are no longer edible after this best-before date and throw them out. In actual fact, the best-before date is a type of quality seal laid down by manufacturers at their own discretion. Up to that stated date they guarantee that the food will retain its colour, smell, consistency and taste when properly stored. This way they hold themselves free of recourse claims.
This is why the best-before date is under scrutiny in the European Union. In future, not only vinegar, sugar and salt are planned to do without best-before dates but also durable foodstuffs like pasta or coffee.