Helping the food industry

Reducing food waste through business activities

Food loss is increasingly being recognized as a problem around the world. In that context, Moriroku Chemicals has been selling plastic films and packaging materials that preserve the freshness of produce and processed food products. In the case of fruits and vegetables, these freshness preserving packaging materials keep the produce fresh during transport from growing areas, extend its shelf life in supermarkets, and make it easier for households to eat everything they purchase without any waste. In that way, food loss is reduced from the time of transport through to consumption.

Promoting packaging materials that extend the shelf life of produce

Food loss has become a serious issue internationally, reflected by its inclusion in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Under Goal 12, "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,"* the UN has set the following target: "By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses."

Food loss is also recognized as a problem in Japan. According to estimates by the Japanese government, about 27.59 million tons of food was wasted in 2016, and of that amount, about 6.43 million tons was still suitable for consumption. That is equivalent to each person in the country throwing away a small bowl of food every day.

Against that backdrop, Moriroku Chemicals has been helping domestic food producers and retailers deal with this issue by selling modified atmosphere packaging that preserves the freshness of food. Such packaging is made of a flexible plastic film with microscopic holes that allow fruit and vegetables to breathe, as if in a hibernation state, thereby keeping them fresh so that their taste and nutrition is preserved.

The goal is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in 2015. Covering issues ranging from poverty and hunger to inequality, energy, and climate change, the goals are intended to be achieved by 2030.

Breakdown of 6.43 million tons of edible food loss in JapanIn Japan, the government has estimated that about 6.43 million tons of edible food was lost in 2016, and of that amount, 3.52 million tons was wasted by businesses and 2.91 million tons was wasted by households. In response, the government initiated a nation-wide campaign to reduce food loss in order to reduce environmental load and realize sustainable food production and consumption.

Source: The Ministry of the Environment's food loss website (Japanese only)

Graph: Breakdown of 6.43 million tons of edible food loss in Japan

Optimizing packaging for a variety of fruits and vegetables

Modified atmosphere packaging can allow adjustable levels of oxygen to penetrate by adjusting the amount of microscopic holes on the plastic film. That allows the packaging to accept enough oxygen for fruit or vegetables inside to breathe while also letting carbon dioxide escape.

Since air circulation conditions differ depending on the type and volume of the packaged fruits or vegetables, the size and number of holes made on the plastic film must be precisely prepared accordingly. For that reason, Moriroku Chemicals obtains product requirements from customers and then prepares samples together with the manufacturer. The samples are tested when the customer uses them to transport and store produce, and based on those results, improvements are made to the product in cooperation with the manufacturer. After the product performance is verified and the customer places an order, Moriroku Chemicals makes the necessary preparations for product shipments, such as printing the packages and coordinating production lots.

As an example of the effectiveness of this product, in a transport test of seven tons of sweet potatoes shipped in a 20-foot container, less than 10% of the potatoes packed in modified atmosphere packaging became rotten compared with around 30% in conventional plastic packaging. In addition to the transport stage, modified atmosphere packaging preserves the freshness of produce for long periods at stores and in the home, thereby helping reduce food loss from the time of transport through to consumption.

Freshness preserving packaging keeps produce in a "hibernation state"With modified atmosphere packaging, the number and size of microscopic holes on the plastic film can be adjusted to optimally control air circulation conditions according to the requirements of specific fruits and vegetables, based on extensive scientific data. This keeps the produce in a state similar to that of animal hibernation.

Image: Freshness preserving packaging keeps produce in a “hibernation state”

More benefits of modified atmosphere packaging

Modified atmosphere packaging supplied by Moriroku Chemicals not only helps reduce food loss, it also eliminates the need for other types of packaging used by growers, which cuts down on waste, and facilitates efficient transport because it is comparably more compact and lightweight than conventional packaging. These advantages are beneficial for growers, processers, sellers, stores, and consumers. As an example, wider shipment areas are possible because the freshness of the produce can be preserved for longer periods. By working together with domestic farmers, Moriroku Chemicals has even been able to expand online and overseas sales channels. Shipping produce overseas had been problematic because produce easily rots or becomes moldy on ships, but modified atmosphere packaging has provided a valuable solution.

In recent years, Japan has been stepping up efforts to export its food products, which are known for their high quality. Through its subsidiaries outside Japan, Moriroku Chemicals has been analyzing market needs in various countries and exploring ways to tap demand. Looking ahead, it will continue developing and expanding businesses that offer a wide range of solutions, including the reduction of food loss.

Numerous merits of freshness preserving packaging materialsModified atmosphere packaging allows fresh produce to be delivered to consumers while preserving its good taste and nutrition. In addition to cutting costs during transport and reducing food loss, these packaging materials can maintain the freshness of food even when stored in a household's refrigerator, helping enhance the reputation and branding of growing areas and retailers.

Figure: Numerous merits of freshness preserving packaging materials

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