Even after a fruit or vegetable is removed from its plant, it is still a living organism that continues to exhibit certain biological functions that help to keep its cells alive and thriving well after harvesting. At the most basic level, carbohydrates that are stored in each piece of produce are continually burning energy just as the human body does.
As this burning (or respiration) process continues, flavor, weight, water content, and nutritional value are diminished. Along the way, the external environment plays a critical role in the speed at which these product attributes are lost.
For fresh produce, that external environment is heavily connected to post-handling and packaging choices. The wrong packaging choice will expedite respiration and speed the natural decay of fresh produce while the right packaging decision is shown to extend product life by providing the most ambient environment for each produce item’s natural biological processes. Here’s a little more detail on how this works:
- Respiration - Different types of fresh produce items have unique rates of respiration, so packaging must be carefully selected to allow carbon dioxide, water vapors and oxygen to pass through the material and not accumulate inside the packaging.
- Ventilation – Because higher temperatures increase the natural rate of respiration, packaging ventilation is crucial for allowing heat to escape away from the produce.
- Water Loss – As environmental temperatures increase, so does the rate at which water is released from the produce. Excessive water loss leads to product dehydration and mold-causing moisture build-up inside the packaging.
So as you consider new packaging alternatives, keep in mind that not all packaging is the right packaging. Rely on your vendors to understand the respiration rates of your various fresh produce items and make appropriate recommendations to help you extend product shelf-life. Learn more about our breathable mesh and poly/mesh bag options here.