Every year in Europe, almost 90 million tons of food is thrown away. The ISA- PACK project, supported by European funds, is expected to reduce this phenomenon considerably thanks to the development of modern packaging polymer film. Both commercial entities and academic institutions are involved in this international project, including Intrex, a company from Poznań which cooperates in the creation of a smart freshness indicator for the packaged product.
The need for intelligent and environmentally sustainable packaging technologies is growing. Food manufacturers and retailers expect better quality and longer shelf life of the product, which directly affects their profits. Politicians and consumers, in turn, are pushing for greater transparency and accurate information about the safety and quality of food. At the same time public pressure increases to reduce food waste and to minimize the environmental impact of waste associated with packaging process. The ISA- PACK project has to address all those expectations.
A European consortium consisting of business and research partners, is working on intelligent, environmentally sustainable solutions that will better protect the fresh food and reduce the phenomenon of its disposal in the whole chain of retail.
The Polish partner of ISA-PACK is Intrex from Poznań, a company which works in the field of systems for marking, labeling and digital printing. The company will test some elements of the project in the real life production conditions.
ISA- PACK received a total of Euro 3.9 million in funding from the European Union.
Longer shelf life of the product
Packaging, in addition to its basic objective of food storage while preventing its contamination, is used to communicate with the consumer; but it also preserves the product, extending the time in which it can remain safely on the shelf. The ISA -PACK project intends to prolong the shelf life of product by 50%. This will be possible thanks two innovative biopolymer materials. Due to their biological origins they will be a smaller burden for the environment, and they will better protect packaged food without interacting with any of its components. Scientists will develop materials which will replace the food packaging technologies used up till now:
- Stretch film is widely used by shops to pack on the site of large quantities of food, including meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and other produce. New copolymer film stretch ISA-PACK PHB could be used wherever PVC film has been used;
- Sheets and films with high gas barrier properties for use in a modified atmosphere (Modified Atmosphere Packaging – MAP), including vacuum packaging. MAP is a popular food packaging system, including finished products, as it provides a longer life of the product on the store shelf. The new solution – copolymer PHB ISA-PACK for MAP packing will be able to replace currently used technologies.
Intelligent quality indicator
In addition to the innovative biopolymer packaging materials, ISA-PACK project will create an intelligent indicator of the freshness of the food, which will be applied directly to the packaging material (this procedure will reduce the potential cost of the use of the new solution). The index will increase the security of consumers who will receive clear information regarding the quality of the product, and the product itself will be able to stay longer on the shelf.
Polish partner of ISA-PACK, Intrex will test this element of the project in some selected meat processing plants in Poland. The company has already begun the first tests of the prototype TTI ink which gives information about the product temperature (TTI – Time Temperature Indicator), while simultaneously work on an indicator of freshness is continuing.
“The investment of the European Union allows us to participate in a project which has a good chance to change the food packaging market. The work of the ISA- PACK consortium on modern materials used for packaging is a challenge, but it also brings great satisfaction, because the expected results will have a positive impact on the situation of food producers and distributors, consumer safety and the environment. The effects of the project will also allow our company to develop its own range of products, offering our customers the latest innovations in the field of intelligent packaging, and will allow for the creation of further innovations”, said Jacek Gazda, coordinator of ISA- PACK at Intrex.
The value of the packaging market is currently estimated at Euro 400 billion, and every year it grows by another 4 percent. The segment involved in the food and drink constitutes 70% and is worth about Euro 280 billion. Food producers and traders expect that the new packaging technology will significantly extend the life cycle of the products on the shelf, improve their quality, increase safety and reduce food waste and quantity of waste made of packaging materials.
The latest information on the progress of the ISA-Pack project can be found at www.isapack.eu
EU support for the research carried out by small and medium-sized enterprises
Intrex is one of over 300 grant recipients that since 2007 have been handed over to small and medium-sized enterprises in Poland for a total of over Euro 60 million. It is estimated that by the end of 2013 over 15,000 such companies throughout Europe will benefit from the funds exceeding Euro 5 billion.
At the beginning of the current Framework Programme, the European Union decided to allocate a minimum of 15% of its funds for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engaged in international research projects. As of October this year, this share has been exceeded reaching 17.5% (the lowest rate in Finland – 12%, the highest – 36% – Hungary and Slovakia; Poland has achieved a score of 17.4 %).
In the next research related Framework Programme – Horizon 2020, which will start in January 2014, the target participation rate for SMEs will be higher. 20% of the budget is allocated for projects related to societal challenges and new technologies. This means that during the next seven years almost Euro 9 billion in the form of subsidies and grants will be available for small and medium-sized enterprises. Of this total, € 3 billion will be spent on feasibility studies and pilot projects in order to accelerate the introduction of interesting ideas to the market. Part of the EU research budget will also be used to secure loans granted to SMEs through public and private entities.
Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the Commissioner for Research and Innovation in the European Commission, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “We consider these Euro 9 billion to be the minimum funding target. SMEs are the backbone of the European economy, providing two-thirds of total employment in the EU. We want as many as possible small and medium-sized enterprises to benefit from EU funding for research and innovation in order to create new products, services and jobs. Detailed information about how companies can start such a process will be announced in December, when we will publish the first call for submitting applications.”
Information on the ISA-PACK consortium
The consortium ISA-PACK includes: The UK Materials Technology Research Institute Limited (UK), The University of Birmingham (United Kingdom), Campden BRI ( UK), Instituto Tecnológico del Embalaje, Transporte y Logística ITENE (Spain), Domino Printing Sciences PLC (United Kingdom), Biopac (UK) Limited (United Kingdom), FKuR Kunststoff GmbH (Germany), Omniform SA (Belgium), Intrex (Poland), Asociación Empresarial de Investigación Centro Tecnológico del Calzado y del Plástico de la Región de Murcia – CETEC (Spain).
Intrex Company is a provider of equipment and systems for marking, labeling, printing and vision inspection. Since 1992, it provides comprehensive services in the field of equipment and systems distribution, maintenance, supplies sales and training in operating the equipment on offer. The company employs more than 80 people – professionals and enthusiasts of modern technologies and marking systems.