SAECO: a new smart packaging

SAECO and the UPTC have developed a cardboard box with anti-microbial and antioxidant effects that lengthens the shelf life of fruit and vegetables

The company from Murcia SAECO, one of the most important Spanish manufacturers of corrugated cardboard, has brought an active packaging with a pretty smart aspect onto the market, which has been developed working with researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (UPCT), and that improves the preservation of fresh fruit and vegetables during their distribution and transport, and lengthens their shelf life by over 30%.

This new active cardboard box, patented both nationally and internationally, has the characteristics of an active anti-microbial packaging, therefore it helps to control the development of microorganisms that alter the quality (moulds and bacteria, which shorten the shelf life of these products) and pathogen microorganisms, such as Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens that could be present in fresh fruit and vegetables. “It also has an antioxidant effect, thus reducing the alterations that involve changes in colour or undesirable russeting,” as indicated by Antonio López Gómez, researcher from the Politécnica and head of the Research Projects that have given rise to this invention.

“To a certain degree, the packaging using this technology is intelligent because it only activates its anti-microbial agents and oxidative process inhibitors when the box is loaded with fresh produce, during transport and storage of the produce in cold storage,” the professor from the Food Engineering and Agricultural Equipment department indicates. “The products used to manufacture it are natural and with zero waste,” the professor from UPCT adds.

“This patented technology can resolve a very important problem of produce losses that occurs when packaged in conventional cardboard boxes. It must be taken into account that in Spain fresh fruit and vegetable produce use around 1,500 million cardboard boxes every year. And many of these millions of boxes are sent with produce to other countries. With this new cardboard box, exporting companies will be able to send their produce to more distant markets in good conditions,” according to Juan de Vicente Sandoval, Sales Manager of SAECO.

The company can adapt the design of its new active boxes to the customer’s requirements, which will look similar to conventional ones and will be manufactured in such a way that their active properties adapt to each product. “A large part of agrifood production is marketed in cardboard packaging, which aids recycling,” underscores Carlos de Vicente Sandoval, General Manager of SAECO, which is the regional leader in corrugated cardboard, with an installed production capacity of 150 million m2, equivalent to over 300 million agricultural containers.

The development of this innovative packaging is perhaps one of the most outstanding results of the collaboration established over the past ten years between the company from Murcia SAECO and the research group in Cold Engineering and Food Safety at the UPCT, which is led by the Professor López Gómez. The Politécnica and the cardboard manufacturing company have jointly participated in two CDTI projects and one European Eureka project. The final optimisation phases of the manufacturing of this active cardboard packaging to be used with peppers and tomatoes and marketed at a price that is as competitive as conventional packaging, are being developed through an R&D project in the RIS3 Mur programme.

The different international marketing possibilities of this technology are also being studied with the help of a Project from the H2020 – SME Instrument European Programme, where the use of this packaging is being optimised for leafy vegetables (such as lettuces), stone fruit, grapes and citrus fruits.


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