The Big Showdown in American football is one of the world’s largest sporting events, with 800 million spectators around the globe. This popular event, now in its 54th year, is not just the Game of Games but also, according to Forbes, the day of the year on which Americans consume the most, Thanksgiving excepted. On this evening, spectators eat millions of pizzas, chicken wings, hamburgers, and hot dogs, to say nothing of innumerable quantities of snacks and sweets.
If mixed nuts, chips, cashews, and similar snacks are to stay fresh as long as possible, their packaging must protect against environmental influences. This is why an increasing number of producers are relying on active packaging. While classic packaging generally offers no more than a passive covering around the food, active packaging, which can absorb excess oxygen in the interior, provides a protective environment, thus keeping the contents fresh. This is important because certain foods such as meat and sausages, nuts, and drinks are sensitive to and react with oxygen, which is present even in shrink-wrapped packages. Reaction with oxygen causes vitamins to lose their health benefits and fats to become rancid; oxygen also allows the growth of bacteria and molds.
Many foods are already being packaged in a protective atmosphere to keep the oxygen content low. In addition, small sachets in the interior can further reduce the oxygen content inside the packaging. But the method has its limitations: It does not work with very dry products, for example. Moreover, users occasionally mistake the sachet contents for a seasoning mix and accidentally consume them. Other oxygen absorbers might be capable of protecting the product, but turn an unsightly yellow over time.
Evonik has now developed a polymer-based oxygen absorber that can be directly incorporated into the packaging material; this captures any residual oxygen molecules but remains transparent. An added plus is that the reaction between the molecule, named VISPARENT®, and oxygen is entirely spontaneous: No additional activator such as moisture or UV radiation, as are used by certain other oxygen absorbers, is needed here. Finally, VISPARENT® works very well in wet, dry, and even cool conditions.
Over the last three years the additive has passed all the stages leading to approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Initial discussions with potential customers and brand owners have yielded positive results, and the first quantities of VISPARENT® will be on sale very soon.