A trip to the grocery store reveals a plethora of items packaged in cartons, boxes, bottles, cups, pouches, sachets, and other forms. These are the typical packaging of the products we put in our carts, especially food, beverages, and medicines. However, there is more to these brightly colored packaging forms than meets the eye. Besides being the “face” of a product, packaging can also keep these products safe for consumption by the buying public. Through the technology and process of aseptic packaging, these products are made clean and safe. But have you ever considered what this packaging is all about, why it is necessary, and why food companies are so concerned? So, this article will answer all of your questions.
What is aseptic packaging?
There are many methods of food packaging, the most important of which is aseptic packaging. The word “aseptic” is derived from the Greek word “septicos” which means “free of putrefactive microorganisms.” Aseptic material fills sterile containers with a commercially sterile product under aseptic conditions and then hermetically (strictly airtight) sealing the product to prevent reinfection.
Aseptic packaging is the most important food packaging method
It aims to create a food item that can be stored without refrigeration for at least six months while retaining chemical and sensory properties. This advanced sterilization process is also preserving it safely and with fewer additives.
Aseptic packaging is used for various food and beverage products, including milk, soup, tomatoes, pudding, and others. It is also used in the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that medications are not contaminated with dangerous bacteria.
Examples of aseptic packaging
Aseptic packaging applies to milk, juice, and others
For 2-15 seconds, milk is heated to 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit. It is then cooled to a temperature appropriate for filling. This is now known as UHT milk (Ultra-high temperature). Sterilization of packaging materials is accomplished using a heated hydrogen peroxide bath, then removed from the packaging material using pressure rollers and hot, sterile air.
The fruit juice is heat-treated, chilled, and then packed into pre-sterilized packaging in a sterile environment on an aseptic filling machine.
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Aseptic packaging materials
Aseptic packaging material must not only ensure sterile conditions within the package and protect the product from physical damage, but it must also maintain the product’s quality.
Packaging material must maintain the product’s quality
Most of its material is made of plastics rather than metal or glass containers because of the lower cost of producing plastic material when compared to metal and glass. Because plastics are lighter than metal or glass, they are less expensive and easier to transport. Plastics also used far less energy to manufacture than metals and glass. Because of these factors, plastic has become the packaging material of choice for aseptic processing.
To achieve the level of protection required, many materials are stacked together by standards, including:
- Polyethylene is used on the inner and outer sides of aseptic packaging as a barrier. These layers prevent moisture from entering or exiting the container.
- Film foil serves to prolong the life of the product as a barrier against light and oxygen.
Advantages of aseptic packaging
In recent years, this packaging has grown in popularity among manufacturers. According to The Freedonia Group, demand for aseptic packaging is expected to grow at a 6.8% annual rate, reaching $6.4 billion by 2020. This expansion can be attributed to the many advantages of aseptic packaging provides to manufacturers.
Increased shelf life
Aseptic packaging has become popular among manufacturers
Aseptic packaging extends the shelf life of certain products by six to twelve months without refrigeration. The increased longevity of a product gives manufacturers more time to sell their product on retailer shelves and more time for the consumer to use or eat the product before it expires.
Reduced shipping and distribution costs
Because of the unique materials used in the kind of packaging, certain products can store at room temperature (approximately 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit). When compared to more traditional types of aseptic packaging, aseptic packaging is lightweight and compact. These characteristics enable manufacturers to reduce shipping costs by reducing shipping weight and eliminating the need to refrigerate products that normally require cooler environments during distribution.
No preservatives required
Because the sterilization process protects against bacteria, manufacturers do not need to use preservatives when using aseptic packaging. Manufacturers will meet the growing consumer demand for a cleaner ingredient list, free of chemicals and added preservatives.
Aseptic packaging is a sustainable method that can help a company’s “Go Green” initiative. The packaging is made primarily of renewable resources and uses roughly 60% less plastic than other options. It also uses less energy to produce.
The packaging uses roughly 60% less plastic than other options
Some businesses use eco-friendly packaging that is carbon neutral and 100% recyclable in response to the industry-wide demand for sustainability. This type of packaging is expected to appeal to more environmentally conscious consumers seeking authenticity in their product purchases.
Maintains quality of contents
Most food products benefit from the high-tech aseptic packaging process, which helps to preserve their overall quality. This means that taste, smell, and even nutritional value will not compromise, and customers can be confident that the product they purchase is of high quality.
In the pharmaceutical industry, It is even more important for ensuring the absolute sterility of medical devices and medicines and keeping them free of contamination of any kind.
Disadvantages of aseptic packaging
- Because the entire system is complex, the cost of production is high, resulting in a high production cost.
- Some products have an overcooked flavor.
Are aseptic packages safe?
Yes. It is not associated with any health risks. The inside layer of an aseptic package that comes into contact with the product is polyethylene (plastic). There is no aluminum or aluminum component leaching through the polyethylene layer. Low-density polyethylene was used in the aseptic package, the Food and Drug Administration approve a food-contact surface material. It is the only component of the package that comes into contact with the food product. Industry tests have revealed that no polyethylene leaches into the food product.
Aseptic packages are always safe
Besides, according to Transparency Market Research, aseptic packaging products are safer alternatives to traditional glass and PET packaging. According to Urbina, it can also save energy and money by allowing ambient rather than refrigerated shipping.
Why demand for aseptic packaging is increasing
Although it has been around since the 1960s, aseptic packaging is still relevant today and in the future, meeting consumers’ demands for value and quality food products on the go that fit their busy lifestyle.
Aseptic filling and packaging are becoming more popular for a wide range of products. Similar to coconut water, dairy-based beverages and foods with particulates have embraced packaging innovation.
Earlier this year, a report was published by The Freedonia Group, U.S demand for aseptic packaging will reach $6.4 billion in 2020, growing at a rate of about 6.8% per year, with annual unit gains of about 3.7% to about 68.5 million. According to a recent Transparency Market Research report, global demand for this kind of packaging could reach $80.49 billion by 2024, up from $34.42 billion in 2015, growing at a CAGR of 9.9%.
Aseptic packaging meets consumers’ demands for value and quality food products
According to The Freedonia Group’s report, pharmaceuticals continue to be the largest market for this packaging, accounting for 61 percent of total U.S. demand in 2015. However, the demand for the packaging for food and beverage continues to rise as its popularity has increased in recent years. The market for aseptic packaging was worth $40 million in 2017. With increased demand from rapidly growing nations and stricter government regulations on food manufacturing, the industry is expected to grow year after year.
In general, we’ve seen that efficient packaging increases market sales. Aseptic packaging was most likely one of the most innovative food technology breakthroughs of the twentieth century. It has brought safe and nutritious food into the homes of millions of people all over the world. It will continue to do so while meeting consumers’ demands for products tailored to their specific needs. While there is still a need for good food that is safe, delicious, and nutritious, its technology is here to stay.