High-tech help for PLASTIC PACKAGERS
Fortress-like security is not a prominent feature of most research labs, but at the Guelph Food Technology Centre, trade secrets stay secret. Code-locked doors and strict security sweeps keep prying e...
Fortress-like security is not a prominent feature of most research labs, but at the Guelph Food Technology Centre, trade secrets stay secret. Code-locked doors and strict security sweeps keep prying eyes out of sensitive areas, where everything from ice-cream to hemp are under study. In fact, confidentiality is one of the Centre’s strong selling points, as clients representing a broad cross-section of the food industry are testing advanced products, and their packaging. The Centre is a non-profit, independent business unit founded in 1995 on the campus of the University of Guelph. The high-tech facility covers 50,000 sq. ft. and has researched 350 projects valued at approximately $5 million to date. The Centre also operates multiple training programs for food industry accreditation, including ISO 9000.
Food processors contemplating new forms of packaging enjoy several advantages by working with the Centre. One advantage is the ability to test prototype and pilot quantities of product without tying up the processors’ production or quality assets, while another stems from the Centre’s extensive knowledge base and proximity to the University of Guelph. Expert help is close at hand, often just down the hall. Clients range from small entrepreneurs to trans-national corporations.
The transition from glass to plastics in packaging is a technical challenge, but researchers Nancy Tregunno and Shawn Campbell study the problem from a holistic perspective. “It’s very much a systems approach. We try to understand the process, package and product. We can act as a go-between for the food industry and plastic processors”, says Campbell, a product development chemist.
Although most of the Centre’s activities are proprietary, a recent success is their testing of a new PEN (polyethylene napthalate) jar believed to be the first to survive the sterilization process needed for baby foods. The jar was developed by Aoki Technical Laboratory and Shell Chemicals, and can withstand 116C for 63 minutes, conditions suitable for low-acid foods such as meat and vegetables. The jar was molded on an Aoki-100LL-20 press from Shell’s HiPERTUF 90000 polyester resin.
“This technology opens up a world of possibilities for processing retorted foods”, says Tregunno, a food scientist at the Centre. “A retortable plastic container with the clarity of glass provides a lightweight, non-breakable alternative to standard metal or glass packaging.”