Sev-Rend developed its Clear-View Pouch with mini potatoes in mind. ( Courtesy Sev-Rend Corp. )

Produce marketers credit controlled-atmosphere and pouch technology for having extended product shelf life.

And the research continues, said Andy Laible, marketing manager with Hartsville, S.C.-based packaging manufacturer Sonoco Corp.

“To accelerate innovative development in that regard, Sonoco recently announced a 5-year, $2.73 million fresh packaging investment in partnership with Clemson University,” Laible said.

The Sonoco FRESH (Food Research Excellence for Safety and Health) initiative will develop new technologies and new forms of packaging to optimize the fresh food lifecycle with a goal to find solutions to extend shelf life and reduce or eliminate food waste, Laible said.

Even paper bags can play a role in lengthening shelf life, said Dave DeMots, CEO of Canby, Ore.-based Package Containers Inc.

He mentioned bananas as an example.

“If you put a ripe banana in our paper bag and seal it, it will suppress the ripening process, so it makes the shelf life of that ripe banana extended,” he said.

“I literally have a time-lapse video of a banana sitting out and bananas in our bag. The weight is retained sitting in our bag versus sitting in the open.”

One of Package Containers’ best-selling bags is its trademarked Ripe Banana Bag, DeMots said.

“There’s this movement about ugly fruit; the ripe banana bag is a way to tap into that ugly fruit trend,” DeMots said.

“Put the bananas in our bag, fold it over and it will slow down the ripening process, so the grocery store can retail better fruit for longer maintaining weight, and of course, it’s sold by weight. The bag makes you money.”

Collinsville, Ill.-based packaging manufacturer Sev-Rend developed a Clear-View Pouch with mini potatoes in mind, said Jeff Watkin, graphic and marketing manager.

“Mini yellow and fingerling potatoes are susceptible to artificial light we see in the retail space; this can cause these types of potatoes to ‘green’, causing spoilage and a decreased shelf life,” Watkin said.

 “The Clear-View pouch is a solution developed by Sev-Rend that gave a light resistant barrier to the pouch while still providing a window for the customer to view the product.”

Items like apples and pears are blessed with more stability than other produce items, but even they can benefit from the right packaging, said Brianna Shales, communications manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC.

“The biggest thing in our world is, because apples and pears have a pretty decent shelf life, that packaging is vented, where fruit can breathe,” she said. “We’re not doing a lot in terms of manipulating package to increase shelf life.”

Stemilt’s cherries require venting, she said.

“We do think the top seal can help extend freshness just because of the way it’s designed,” she said.

Stemilt is looking to use top-seals on its cherry containers next year, she said.

Of course, the product has to start fresh to stay fresh, said Andy Tudor, vice president of business development with Yakima, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co.

“I’ve seen a few new (packaging) products out there,” he said. “For us, you have to have the quality in the box. We just try to get it right before we ship it,” he said.