- A new eco-friendly, biodegradable packaging material has the potential to double the shelf life of bread and other perishable food products. It's made from fortifying natural chitosan-based composite film with grapefruit seed extract and contains no chemical additives.
- Researchers from the National University of Singapore have combined grapefruit seed extract with chitosan, a polymer created from the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans, to develop packaging that is comparable to synthetic polyethylene film. Food manufacturers commonly use this. The chitosan-based polymer is, however, natural and biodegradable.
- The packaging's two components together have antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and other properties that prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria. The packaging also blocks ultraviolet light, which hinders degradation of foods from oxidation and photochemical reactions.
Consumers' demands for natural foods and less environmental impact complicate manufacturer packaging decisions by limiting the types of packaging materials and preservatives companies can use to prolong shelf life.
Plant-based packaging, which can extend shelf life, has become more popular as manufacturers like Coca-Cola and agencies like the USDA make development efforts. In this case, the packaging is made from shells rather than plants, which opens a new realm of natural, biodegradable packaging possibilities.
The chitosan-based packaging is not commercially available yet, but cost and availability of components will be key questions here. Packaging producers would need a reliable source for crustacean shells that they can scale for mass production if this innovation is to have any real impact on the larger food industry.
The researchers believe their chitosan-based packaging could have economic benefits thanks to its ability to double shelf life for perishable products like bread. In addition to a longer chance to make a sale, less frequent distribution means cost savings and increasing margins in these categories.