To look at, it seems to be just any other type of box, but thanks to this patented innovation, developed with the University of Bologna (Italy), it is an intelligent tool to combat food waste: in fact it reduces waste considerably. It is the Attivo packaging from the Italian consortium Bestack, a smart packaging which, thanks to the addition of natural essential oils with antimicrobial action to the cardboard, allows the shelf life of fruit to be prolonged, significantly reducing waste.
The first ‘from farm to table’ tests, to measure the real benefits of the anti-waste packaging in strawberry and apricot chains, have been a success. Now the non profit-making consortium of Italian manufacturers of corrugated cardboard packaging for fruit and vegetables, is going one step further in its research and experimental work, using Attivo packaging for high added value products like small fruit, for which even an increase of a few hours of shelf life can be significant.
What, therefore, are the benefits of the Attivo Bestack packaging for small fruit? “Firstly the natural antimicrobials contained in the Attivo cardboard disinfect the surface of the packaging, reducing the bacterial load and also pathogens, and increase food safety: a subject which is highly topical nowadays”, emphasises Claudio Dall’Agata, director of Bestack. “Secondly, they enable the ripening process and age deterioration of raspberries and cherries to be slowed down, giving the product more than an extra day of shelf life in both cases and making a considerable difference to wastage, which particularly affects the unit value of the product. This allows products with a higher Brix value to be harvested and their quality to be guaranteed over time with greater certainty, as well as lengthening their shelf life”.
Tests with raspberries
Over two months, from April to May 2018, a panel test was carried out which involved 30 people, and a total of 240 interviews. The required assessment on the product, two and four days from packaging, was regarding the visual aspect and organoleptic characteristics. From the analyses carried out by Distal (Department of Agri-Food Sciences and Technologies – University of Bologna) with raspberries made available by Sant’Orsola (Italy), results showed that those packed with Attivo packaging, compared with those in traditional cardboard packaging, are fresher (ripened 10-11% less four days after packaging) and generally look better (+12.3% after four days). They have a better smell (+14.2% after four days) and a better taste (+9.6% after four days). But above all, if put in Attivo packaging, the raspberries are less likely to end up being thrown away because they are over-ripe: the waste is reduced, in fact, by 6.25%. With these characteristics, the product can also, potentially, be sold at a higher price: more than 85% of respondents, in fact, would be prepared to accept an 11% higher price for raspberries packaged for four days in Attivo packaging than those packaged for the same period of time in traditional packaging.
Tests with cherries
Cherries are another high added value product with a short shelf life, on which it was decided to test Attivo packaging. In this case, in collaboration with Orchidea Frutta, tests were carried out both in the warehouse – in the factory in Rutigliano, Bari, Italy – to assess the reduction in waste, and also panel tests to analyse consumer perception. The tests took place from May to June 2018. During the visual test in the warehouse to assess the store life of the cherries at room temperature, in addition to the product packaged using traditional cardboard and Attivo cardboard, those packaged in plastic with fold-down sides were also considered. It was found that, four days after packaging, the waste is reduced by 10.5% for the product packaged in Attivo cardboard compared with that packaged in traditional cardboard. When comparing with plastic boxes with fold-down sides, the benefit of the Attivo cardboard is even clearer: the cherry waste is, in fact, reduced by 12.4%.