Coronavirus highlights opportunity for smart packaging

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags: Smart packaging, coronavirus, Amazon, stepac

As much of the world shelters in place, delivery services like Amazon have become a lifeline for many who wish to still receive their supplements and other items without having to go to the store.

As coronavirus cases crop up at Amazon warehouses across the country, people are concerned that even receiving their mail, Amazon packages and food deliveries may come with risks. 

While health experts maintain chances are very low that viable coronavirus particles will remain on envelopes or packages and infect those who handle them, companies are doing what they can to keep employees and customers safe.

Facilities ramp up safety precautions 

StePac is one company that is taking extra steps to assure a clean environment for employees and their packaging products, which will ultimately end up in the hands of consumers. 

“The company has BRC-IOP grade AA, HACCP and ISO 9001 -2008 accreditation and as such maintains very high quality standards in its facilities,” ​said Gary Ward, Ph.D., Business Development Manager for StePac.

Ward told NutraIngredients-USA​ that Stepac has implemented a number of measures to ensure the safety of its employees, taking body temperature upon factory entry, social distancing, more handwashing, more frequent sanitizing of door handles, factory entry points and toilets. Additionally, onsite staff is limited to only those deemed essential for operations, with everyone else working from home. The company has subsidiaries in Brazil, Israel and the US. 

The extra precautions are especially crucial for StePac's credibility in the current crisis as it offers smart packaging meant to enhance food safety and security. 

Smart packaging 

"StePac’s Xgo brand of retail packaging formats are hermetically sealed,” ​noted Ward. “They not only preserve the quality of the produce and extend shelf life, but also act as a physical barrier that prevents contact of the produce by the human hand from the moment it is packed until it is opened by the consumer. Consequently, once packed, the risk of produce being contaminated during the supply chain is effectively eliminated. Such assurance is not guaranteed when fruits and vegetables are sold loose or housed in packaging with punch holes or perforations.”

Ward explained that the company’s unique polymer packaging formulation has also demonstrated capabilities for preserving nutritional value of fresh produce following prolonged storage. 

“By slowing respiration, it is expected that the nutritional value will be maintained for longer and that at any moment in time, the nutritional value in modified atmosphere packaging will be higher than produce not stored in modified atmosphere. Independent research has indicated that vitamin C is better preserved in modified atmosphere packaging.”

Indeed, a 2018 independent study conducted by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey analyzed the post-harvest quality of Hicaznar pomegranate fruit packaged in StePac’s Xtend branded MAP packaging. They found that the packaging preserves the vitamin C content better than the naked control during six months of storage at 42°F. 

Ward said during a time of possible food shortages and ‘panic buying,’ StePac gives perishable fruits and vegetables an extended life span. 

Keeping things fresh

“The top seal contains a tamper evident device. Some customers have reported being able to store for up to 6 months, with high quality fruit and strict handling and storage.”

With contamination concerns and delays in cargo flows, the sustainable packaging specialist is pointing to its modified atmosphere packaging solutions to help alleviate some of these contamination and food security anxiety. 

“The packaging preserves the quality all the way to the consumer,  ensures no human contact from the time it is packed until it is opened by the consumer and is suitable for multiple servings.”

Ward said that at last count, StePac’s packaging is used in over 60 countries.

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