StePacPPC’s new sustainable packaging boosts exotic mushroom longevity

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Fresh produce packaging pioneers StePacPPC has customised its award-winning modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) films to preserve fresh whole and sliced white mushrooms and whole exotic mushrooms. The lean MAP system fulfills consumer demands for sustainable packaging that slows deterioration and dramatically reduces waste of this highly perishable item.

The appetite for mushrooms has been growing rapidly based on their health halo and being a vegan source of meaty umami flavor and texture. Yet mushrooms also have a very short shelf life. Growers and shippers are constantly grappling with these challenges, striving to improve mushroom storage capabilities and curb waste.

StePacPPC’s latest advancement in its packaging formats is designed specifically to maintain the freshness of whole and sliced white mushrooms, and whole exotic mushrooms. The customised films significantly slow down decay and reduce weight loss of costly culinary delicacies, preserving texture, nutrition, and flavor thereby effectively diminishing a considerable amount of waste and cost.

Over the past decade, consumer demand for mushrooms has surged, with more exotic species entering the mainstream. They are considered a culinary specialty, appreciated for their savory qualities and nutritional benefits. According to data by Emergen Research, the global mushroom market size is valued at more than USD50 billion. This number is expected to more the double by 2030.

Despite the increasing demand, the highly perishable nature of mushrooms, combined with the challenges of maintaining their shelf life, has kept them from realising their full market potential.

“Mushrooms have high metabolic activity and respiration rates which gives them a short shelf life, typically just a few days,” explained Gary Ward, Ph.D., CTO for StePacPPC. “They also generate a lot of moisture during the respiration process, which encourages bacterial decay. On the other hand, they are also prone to dehydration which causes them to shrivel, and they become discolored due to oxidation. Sliced mushrooms are even more susceptible to a rapid decline in quality.”

The high water-vapor transmission rate of StePacPPC films, coupled with the customised modified atmosphere properties, have proven ideal for preserving the quality of both whole and sliced mushrooms, at once slowing respiration and aging, reducing dehydration, and expelling excess moisture from the packaging.

“In post-harvest lab and field trials, our films have demonstrated abilities to maintain the freshness and wholesome appearance of mushrooms,” asserted Dr Ward. “This effectively stretches their shelf life from just a few days to more than two weeks, generating meaningful reductions in food waste.”

StePacPPC’s packaging first demonstrated its potential for mushroom preservation during the Covid pandemic. Oyster mushroom farmers found themselves with backlogs of produce due to the logistical standstills. StePacPPC’s Xtend® bulk packaging solutions were instrumental in helping prolong storage in the cold storage, effectively mitigating waste.

Since then, the company has developed Xtend bulk packaging solutions for lion’s mane, shiitake and portabella.

“We use the Xtend solution for packing our oyster and portobella mushrooms and preserving the quality during shipment to the customers,” said Roni Sofer, VP of Marketing for Marina Galilee Mushrooms, Ltd., a market leader in Israel. “The results have been amazing, and overall, we have succeeded in preserving the freshness for more than 10 days and waste in our supply chain has reduced by more than 35 per cent since we began. We strongly recommend to any mushroom grower or supplier to examine this solution.”

More recently, StePacPPC and its longstanding partner, Windham Packaging, LLC, completed the adaptation of its Xflow™ brand of roll-stock films for automated packing to meet the specific preservation needs of bulk fresh sliced white mushrooms.

StePacPPC’s newest Xflow solutions are already gaining momentum in North America, where they are preserving the quality of bulk-packed sliced mushrooms for foodservice outlets such as restaurants and hotels.

“We use the Xflow solution for packing our sliced mushroom and preserving the quality during shipping to food service customers,” said Fred Recchiuti of Basciani Foods, a leading provider of fresh high-quality mushrooms for retail and the food service industry in the USA. “The results have been impressive, and overall, the packaging system preserved the freshness for as long as 18 days.

“The tamper-proof bag increases food safety, security, and eliminates the possibility of foreign materials entering the product in the supply chain. For sustainability, it reduces the product’s plastic use by more than 94.7 per cent versus the tubs we used to use.”

These lean and sustainable packaging formats can optionally be produced with 30% recycled material to support a circular economy. This is in conjunction to its longstanding use of mechanically recycled content.