New Cherry Packaging Looks Promising

New Cherry Packaging Looks Promising

Is it possible for a package of sweet cherries in the produce aisle to be appealing to the eye, environmentally friendly, and keep cherries fresh longer than other packages available on the market today? That is what a team of scientists is trying to find out. Slowing down the process of softening, flavor loss, incidence of decay, and stem browning are potential benefits of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) in micro-perforated bio-based containers.

Researchers at Michigan State University’s (MSU) School of Packaging, Food Science, and Human Nutrition, and Horticulture departments led by Assistant Professor Eva Almenar are collaborating to develop a sustainable package to prolong the shelf life of sweet cherries during distribution and marketing in a USDA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative project led by Washington State University. The goal of this research is to develop compostable and recyclable packaging that prolongs the shelf life of sweet cherries during distribution and marketing. The experimental containers are necessary to reduce cherry water loss as well as respiration and microbial growth. Altering the gas mixture surrounding the cherries to a composition different from that of air may be an effective tool to prolong the cherry’s quality during distribution and marketing.

Almenar says bio-based containers may have valuable potential benefits for growers as well as consumers. “The compostability and biodegradability of the material could allow the grower to grow compost piles in the field and then compost their own packages,” she says, “In addition, the proposed packages extend shelf life and provide higher cherry quality at the retail point, thus offering a more appealing product to the consumer.”

Shielding Cherries

The idea is that O2 depletion and CO2 enhancement occurs in the package head space by the different rates of cherry respiration and the gas permeability of the package. The researchers are evaluating the effects of this modified atmosphere on fruit quality and the physico-chemical and microbiological changes that occur during storage. In addition, there are results showing reduced water loss in the package because it acts as a physical barrier and also reduces air movement across the produce surface.

Plastics are the most successful materials in reaching the needed gas balance and moisture content in the surrounding atmosphere of fresh produce. Currently, bio-based polymers are a viable alternative to petroleum-based ones for food packaging. For example, poly (lactic acid), or polylactide (PLA,) has many properties that make it attractive as a petroleum plastic substitute. PLA is biodegradable, compostable, made 100% from renewable resources, approved by USDA for contact with food, and has physical and mechanical properties similar to those of common petroleum-based plastics. In addition, PLA has a transparent and glossy finish that is appealing to the eye of the consumer.

“This project endeavors to impact the entire supply chain, including consumers and retailers,” says Matt Whiting, project director and associate professor & Extension specialist at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, WA. “We are striving for the development of attractive, compostable packaging that extends shelf life and improves consumer appeal of the fruit,” he says. “This is crucial to reducing shrink at retail and increasing consumption of sweet cherries.”

Take The Survey

To date, Almenar has conducted experiments to assess the effect of packaging, temperature, and cherry variety on the shelf life and quality of fresh sweet cherries with or without stems. Three different packaging systems have been compared: (1) a rigid tray closed with a non-microperforated lidding material, both made from PLA; (2) a rigid tray closed with micro-perforated lidding material, both made from PLA; and (3) the current commercial (bag) package for sweet cherries.

Preliminary findings show the shelf life of a sweet cherry is notably affected by the type of package, the surrounding temperature, and the cherry variety (Skeena and Sweetheart were tested). Additional results show an increase in temperature from 3ºC to 10ºC (37.4ºF to 50ºF) reduced the shelf life of the packaged cherries by one week. In addition, the micro-perforated bio-based container reduced cherry weight loss by about 10% after three weeks of storage, and approximately the same fungal growth was observed in the cherries of the bio-based micro-perforated packages as cherries in current commercial packages. In the just-completed cherry harvest season, Almenar tested an improved package, and Janice Harte, an associate professor at MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, planned sensory tests of sweet cherries in the proposed new container.

Responses to a survey on consumer preferences for packaging of fresh cherries are also being sought. Anyone involved in the sweet cherry industry supply chain, including growers, packers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers, are welcome to participate. For more information on this and other aspects of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative project, visit the project’s website at sweetcherryresearch.wsu.edu. To take the survey, click here.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.S.?
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
More Vegetables
August 16, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Broccoli ‘Eastern Crown’ from Sakata
'Eastern Crown' is an outstanding variety for the East Coast and warm regions throughout the U.S. Read More
Fruits
August 15, 2017
California Nurseryman Settles With Feds Over Plowing Dispute
John Duarte admits no liability but will pony up more than $1 million in civil penalties and environmental mitigation fees. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 15, 2017
Wet Weather Breeds Phytophthora in Young Apple Plantings
Crown rot, root rot flourishing in very wet growing season. Read More
Agritainment
Citrus
August 15, 2017
New Conference to Shine Spotlight on Central Florida Agritourism
Education and interaction part of UF/IFAS-led agenda. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
August 14, 2017
Biocontrols: The South African Fruit Growers’ Perspective
While insect and disease pressure differs from U.S., South African fruit growers say education and slow transitions make for successful integration of biological products. Read More
Fruits
August 14, 2017
Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Expands Again
Pennsylvania receives $3 million from USDA for outreach efforts, control measures for this invasive pest. Read More
Crop Protection
August 11, 2017
Do Fungicide- and Insecticide-Treated Seeds Boost Weeds?
The University of New Hampshire has received half a million dollars to investigate if seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds from its usual predators. Read More
Citrus
August 11, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Common Lambsquarters
Take a look at these tips for identifying and treating this pervasive weed. Read More
Farm Management
August 11, 2017
Vegetable Growers’ Food Safety Vigilance Is Paying Off (Opinion)
When you hear about recalls, the horror stories come to mind first. That’s understandable, considering the human cost involved with Read More
tomato juice glass and tomatoes
Tomatoes
August 10, 2017
Getting to the Bottom of Better-Tasting Tomato Juice
Examining the essence of the problem, University of Florida scientists are seeking to squeeze more flavor into popular beverage. Read More
Farm Management
August 10, 2017
Climate Change Drives New Healthy Soils Program
California offers farmers grants to improve soil health; new program is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenue. Read More
Jose Dubeux and Mack Glass talk farming in a Florida forage field
Citrus
August 9, 2017
Florida Farming and University Extension Grow Hand in Hand [Opinion]
Learning is a two-way street to success in the field and the lab. Read More
Vegetables
August 9, 2017
Want to Tour Vegetable Field Trials in California? Here’s What You Need to Know
If you want to pack in a lot of vegetable trials in a short time, head to California. With the Read More
Apples & Pears
August 9, 2017
2017 Washington Apple Crop Down Slightly
Forecasted harvest predicted to be 131 million boxes, down 1.2% from 2016. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.…
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
More Vegetables
August 16, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Broccol…
'Eastern Crown' is an outstanding variety for the East Coast and warm regions throughout the U.S. Read More
Fruits
August 15, 2017
California Nurseryman Settles With Feds …
John Duarte admits no liability but will pony up more than $1 million in civil penalties and environmental mitigation fees. Read More
Apples & Pears
August 15, 2017
Wet Weather Breeds Phytophthora in Young…
Crown rot, root rot flourishing in very wet growing season. Read More
Citrus
August 15, 2017
New Conference to Shine Spotlight on Cen…
Education and interaction part of UF/IFAS-led agenda. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
August 14, 2017
Biocontrols: The South African Fruit Gro…
While insect and disease pressure differs from U.S., South African fruit growers say education and slow transitions make for successful integration of biological products. Read More
Fruits
August 14, 2017
Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Expands Ag…
Pennsylvania receives $3 million from USDA for outreach efforts, control measures for this invasive pest. Read More
Crop Protection
August 11, 2017
Do Fungicide- and Insecticide-Treated Se…
The University of New Hampshire has received half a million dollars to investigate if seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds from its usual predators. Read More
Citrus
August 11, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Common Lambsquarte…
Take a look at these tips for identifying and treating this pervasive weed. Read More
Farm Management
August 11, 2017
Vegetable Growers’ Food Safety Vigilance…
When you hear about recalls, the horror stories come to mind first. That’s understandable, considering the human cost involved with Read More
Tomatoes
August 10, 2017
Getting to the Bottom of Better-Tasting …
Examining the essence of the problem, University of Florida scientists are seeking to squeeze more flavor into popular beverage. Read More
Farm Management
August 10, 2017
Climate Change Drives New Healthy Soils …
California offers farmers grants to improve soil health; new program is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenue. Read More
Citrus
August 9, 2017
Florida Farming and University Extension…
Learning is a two-way street to success in the field and the lab. Read More
Vegetables
August 9, 2017
Want to Tour Vegetable Field Trials in C…
If you want to pack in a lot of vegetable trials in a short time, head to California. With the Read More
Apples & Pears
August 9, 2017
2017 Washington Apple Crop Down Slightly
Forecasted harvest predicted to be 131 million boxes, down 1.2% from 2016. Read More
Production
August 9, 2017
Greenhouse Vegetable Production Systems …
From fully automated deepwater culture to vertical growing systems, growers and manufacturers weigh in on tools for producing top-quality vegetables and greens. Read More
Crop Protection
August 9, 2017
Why Some of the Most Dangerous Potato Di…
If you understand the role oxygen, and its lack, plays in potato diseases, you'll be better equipped to battle them. Read More
Citrus
August 9, 2017
Traceability Products to Help You Track …
One way to ease the process of a food safety recall is by having detailed records of where each crop has been and who has touched it. Look over these traceability products using the latest technology to help you stay on top of your records. Read More