Best Ways To Improve Your Product Shelf Life

Every small business owner understands the importance of shelf life. And if you are in the food industry, it is even more crucial. Recent studies reveal that food waste is a major threat to sustainability, with households contributing 61%, 26% from food service, and 13% from retail businesses. However, there is no doubt that longer shelf life means easier storage, shipping, and selling. Therefore, it is essential to consider strategies to improve your product's shelf life, including the following.

1. Product freezing
Freezing is one of the easy and popular ways to improve product shelf life by stopping micro-organism formation. And freezing below 18°C can eliminate nearly all micro-organisms and prevent mold or bacteria formation in your products. Depending on the food type, it is a quick and convenient way to extend your food's shelf life for months or a year. However, you need to apply the right processes to keep the food safe and maintain its quality.

2. Processing method
There are several methods for improving product shelf life, including fermentation, sterilization, and so on. Some scientific methods may include pasteurization or thermal processing, which involves applying low heat treatment to food products. Blanching is another method of extending shelf life by pre-heating food with mild heat or boiling water. The process kills enzyme activation and is usually used for products like vegetables. However, blanching is not ideal for fruits. Other recommended food processing methods include canning, sugaring, and pickling, but the appropriateness of a method may depend on the type of food.

3. Smart stickers
According to several studies, some chemicals can minimize the effects of ethylene or inhibit microbial development, therefore extending shelf life. While one study claims that smart stickers can increase the shelf life of fresh fruits by up to 14 days, there is still a lot of supply chain validation. Per the study, smart stickers contain natural compounds that form protective layers around food products. Other independent studies say that the technology increases product sweetness, moisture retention, and sustained structure to maintain its firmness. However, the intriguing concept needs some more research.

4. Drying
Drying is one of the oldest methods for product preservation. Products' shelf life can be significantly improved when reducing their moisture content. Adding sugar solution or concentrated salt can dry up the free water and eliminate micro-organisms. This is why products with high sugar content, such as marmalades and jams, don't require freezing to keep the freshness.

5. Natural antimicrobials
Antimicrobials like plant extracts, herbs, and spices can prevent spoiling and improve shelf life. Food businesses must look for natural alternatives to chemicals as buyers prefer safer ingredients. Additionally, you can use natural antimicrobials as a part of the marketing strategy to attract new customers. Natural antimicrobials are an excellent alternative to chemical preservatives and are useful for controlling the impact of storage and distribution activities on food quality and shelf life. For instance, when added to fresh catfish products, natural antimicrobials can extend their shelf life without reducing their quality.

6. Product atmosphere modification
How you package a product can contribute to its shelf life. Usually, businesses that trade in fresh food products package their items in an oxygen-free atmosphere. They usually enclose their finished products using modified atmosphere packaging that has been infused with a mixture of gases other than oxygen to keep the product fresh. While you can use shelf life-extending packaging to control ripening, respiration rate, and microbial growth, certain carton containers, pallet covers, and sheets can help in ethylene control. For example, some businesses use vacuum packaging to preserve their products, such as vegetables and fruits. This way, the products can maintain their attractiveness and appeal to consumers for a long time.

7. Proper handling and treatment
It doesn't matter whether you are dealing with perishable or non-perishable products; poor handling can affect their shelf life. It is essential to ensure proper handling and treatment to protect your fruits and vegetables from the moment they are harvested. For instance, using contaminated packaging or cleaning your food products with contaminated water are poor treatment methods. More so, subjecting them to high pressures can damage them. Even the slightest issues can shorten the shelf life of products. For a food business, it can be useful to find a flexible packaging company for protective flexible packaging and handling of your products.

8. Product irradiation
This process involves exposing foodstuff to ionizing radiation. The technology enhances foods' safety and shelf life by removing or decreasing micro-organisms and insects. Canning fruits and vegetables and pasteurization of milk are typical examples of irradiation. The process efficiently removes or eliminates microbial and insect infestation and any food-borne diseases they cause in your product. With proper application, you can increase the safety of several foods and products while extending their shelf life.

9. Chemical usage
While it is true that companies use chemicals to extend their products' shelf life, they are usually combined with other methods. These chemicals are also not applied directly to the products to preserve their quality and make them safe for human use. Most food processing businesses usually use oxygen absorbers and antioxidants to decrease oxidation and extend the shelf life of their products.

10. Varieties switching
Since the dawn of agriculture, people have been looking for innovative ways to create better-tasting varieties of various foods. Today, products with longer shelf lives are a focus, especially because worldwide shipping is possible. For instance, during 2019 research, a variation of strawberries showed longer shelf life. However, when stored in cold conditions, 29% decayed compared to 93% of Camarosa strawberries under the same conditions. This means that it can be beneficial to look out for what varieties are available and weigh your options concerning which products to switch.

Aside from the ethical and financial benefits of prolonging the shelf life of your products, the environmental impact makes it a worthy cause for any organization. Due to this, it is a good idea to think about these pointers for maintaining and extending your product's shelf life.

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