Improve the Shelf Life of Food Products by Switching to MAP
The move to MAP has succeeded in gaining extra shelf life
Hellenic Quality Foods (HQF) is a leading food company in Greece. Its subsidiary Mimikos, based in Evia, around 100 km from Athens, is one of Greece’s major poultry processing companies: around ten million chickens each year are processed and packaged as fresh whole birds and cuts, together with a range of cooked products such as nuggets and burgers. Mimikos employs some 400 people, and the Evia factory has eight packaging lines.
Improving shelf life
Until early 2014, the products were packaged on trays with plain stretch film. For some years the company had been considering a switch to Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) with a view to improving the products’ shelf life and extending the customer reach.
A decision was eventually taken to move to a flow packaging system with MAP, and this was followed by more than a year of intensive research to identify the systems that would work best for the Mimikos product range: the type of flow packaging lines needed, the gas mixtures and mixing systems, packaging materials, and quality assurance methods.
The supplying team
A team of specialist suppliers was assembled to work with HQF technical experts and the company decided to opt for ULMA flow wrapping technology with Sealed Air CRYOVAC films. Dansensor’s MAP Mix Provectus was selected for the gas mixing, as suggested by Analytical Instruments SA, Dansensor’s distributor in Greece. The MAP Mix Provectus was paired with Dansensor’s MAP Check 3 on-line gas analyser to continuously monitor the residual oxygen and confirm the gas mixture in each package. The feedback control system that operates between the compact MAP Mix Provectus and the MAP Check 3 ensures that an excess of gas is not used, and that if the mixture falls outside a pre-determined range, production will stop automatically to prevent the need for repacking entire batches.
There then followed more than six months of testing the system on a line within the factory, experimenting with different gas mixtures to obtain the required shelf life. “Finally we were satisfied that the system would work, and in a massive logistical exercise in 2014 we replaced all eight old lines with the new MAP lines,” says Mimikos Production Manager Ms Dimitra Piperopoulou.
The factory was running close to maximum capacity, so little downtime for the packaging line replacement was available. “We effectively replaced the whole packaging area, with nothing remaining of the old one,” says
Ms Piperopoulou. “It was a complex transition that involved many things happening at once, with new film, new line and new gases. But we successfully completed it in only two weeks with minimal disruption to the factory. This was mainly due to very good coordination between the packaging line suppliers, Dansensor and our own technical people at HQF.”
There are now seven lines for fresh products and one for cooked products, each equipped with a MAP Mix Provectus gas mixer and a MAP Check 3 on-line gas analyser. In addition the company uses a Dansensor CheckPoint portable headspace analyser to test the headspace gas mixture in randomly selected packages as an additional layer of quality assurance.
Eight months into the new production facility, Ms Piperopoulou is happy with the way things are going. “These are new lines and inevitably there are teething problems, but nothing serious and any issue that does arise is rapidly resolved by the packaging line suppliers or Dansensor. The gas mixing and testing system was simple to set up and run. We have succeeded in gaining the extra shelf life that we and our customers wanted and with the on-line monitoring we secure 100% product quality assurance.”
Ready to meet the demands of the market
HQF has built its reputation on the high quality of its raw materials and of excellent standards of hygiene, says Ms Piperopoulou. The extended shelf life of the products afforded by the new MAP packaging system will help the company to meet the new demands of the market and produce growth for the company. “With the new system we have achieved the required degree of high quality with the combination of the gas mixture, the gas mixers, gas analysers, the lines and the packaging materials,” she says. “ It was a very big investment with virtually a completely new factory, but we are confident it will result in greater profitability for the company.”