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Sliced apples get the value-added treatment

Peeled, cored and sliced, fresh Granny Smith apples have joined the growing list of value-added fresh produce items available to consumers at retail.

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Met West Agribusiness, a major grower and packer located in Del Rey, CA, introduced 1-lb portions of Granny Smith apples in zippered reclosable bags the day after Labor Day. The launch covered most of the U.S. Refrigerated shelf life on the product, says MWA president David Sasaki, is 12 days, which is remarkable considering how quickly apples darken once they're sliced. The addition of citric acid, sodium erythorbate and calcium chloride help keep the apples from turning dark. But the other key component allowing 12-day shelf life is the pressure-sensitive Fresh Hold® label from Fresh Valley Technology (Salinas, CA), an affiliate of Dallas-based Albert Fisher North America. It covers a hole punched into the flexible film, and because its permeability is carefully specified, it allows gases to pass in and out of the package at a predetermined rate. This results in an internal atmosphere that allows the fresh apples to respire, thus allowing them to stay fresh. The premade bags, with bright graphics in four colors, are supplied to MWA by Maine Poly (Greene, MN). But Sasaki won't say what the bag material is, nor will he describe how they're filled and sealed, other than to indicate that it's done in an automated fashion. Packaging speeds remain a mystery as well. The apples, retailing for about $3.00, are being displayed in the refrigerated case beside other value-added produce items such as salads, carrots and broccoli. "It's the equivalent of about four large apples, which makes it good for a fruit tray or an after school snack," says Sasaki. "Or you can use two bags to make an apple pie."

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