Fresh produce is a 20 billion euro industry in Germany. The AMI (Agricultural Market Information Service) in Bonn, analysed the purchasing and expenditure of private households in Germany on fresh fruit and vegetables in 2010. According to its figures, every private household consumed 142.9 kg of fresh fruit and vegetables in the past year, with each household purchasing 81.5 kg of fresh fruit and in addition, 61.4 kg of fresh vegetables.
The market for fresh convenience ready-to-eat fruit and vegetable products in Germany is steadily growing. An increase in the number of single-person households, more meals taken away from home, changing eating habits and quick and easy availability are all key factors in the rapidly growing demand for pre-packaged fresh produce.
Although I only have figures for Germany available, it is a trend throughout Europe.
As I said in my previous article “The Mini-World of Healthy Snacks “ maintaining the freshness of produce is a problem. That’s why many a producer is developing the baby-variations, so that no cutting of the fresh produce is necessary before packing.
We have seen that the principal problem in this field is to prevent the deterioration of fresh-cut produce during fresh salad preparing. Processors of fresh produce deal with living, breathing organisms whose spoilage-spiral begins upon harvest. This deterioration-spiral is accelerating after fresh vegetables and fruits are cut for salads.
To solve this problem, measures reducing the time interval between the produce cutting and its consumption are taken. On the other hand, technologies slowing down the processes of fresh-cut produce spoilage are being developed. The major efforts are aimed at the maintenance of a controlled or modified atmosphere within a semi-permeable packaging, ensuring the preservation of fresh-cut produce, at best, for several days depending on the kind of produce.
The best answer is to pack the produce as a whole after harvesting and washing and cut into the desired size just moments before consumption. In Israel Michael Gershman Ph.D. and two of his entrepreneurial friends developed the “Always Fresh Salad” packaging.
“Always Fresh Salad” is a new initiative targeting the prepared fresh-cut salad market. The product is a ready-to-made disposable vegetable or fruit salad packaging, in which the vegetables or fruits are stored in a whole mode after washing.
Cutting/slicing is performed by the consumer, just before consumption using a simple and intuitive cutter embedded in the packaging. The kit also includes salad dressings, eating utensils and a napkin.
During unpacking the salad, the consumer unfolds the knife handle and starts a simple and intuitive movement of the knife, cutting the vegetables inside the container. Every such movement makes the lid and the knife advance by a predetermined step, which sets the width of the slice. When the knife reaches the rear wall of the container, the lid is liberated and can be removed. As a result, the package is unpacked and the vegetables are cut. All the consumer has to do now, is to mix the salad with the dressing.
A working prototype demonstrates the feasibility of the product and the team is ready now for designing an industrial prototype. The novel package design is patent pending.
This is a simple and compact system consisting of a container or bottom tray, a sliding lid and a flat plastic knife with a foldable handle. There is a special mechanism for shifting the lid one step at a time when cutting. This mechanism does not need any additional parts and does not add complexity to manufacturing; all the functions are performed due to the special shape of the lid and the “dents” on the container upper edge. The only “additional part” is a plastic strip connecting the knife and the lid. In the industrial design this strip will be secured on the lid with one click. The Always Fresh Salad packaging will be made by vacuum thermoforming; the lid and knife by injection moulding.
The bottom tray can be made from any thermo-formable material. The only consideration here is cost. The top tray has to be manufactured by injection moulding. It is possible to select a material with a short lifetime e.g. it disintegrates after a short period or a material that can easily be recycled.
The “knife” is a one-time-device. Once you unfold it, you can used it to cut the salad but you cannot fold it again. This makes the whole package a disposable package.
The inventors presently only have a laboratory prototype which demonstrates the feasibility of the concept. They have an additional R&D stage in front of them to develop a mass production model. That’s why they are looking for a strategic partner and/or investor. Simply said they urgently need some investment to bring this (beautiful and promising) development to the market.
I think the concept of a self cutting salad is intriguing enough to excite some of my readers. Interested parties can send an email to bestinpackaging(at)xs4all.nl for additional information and for contact creation.