Providing better fresh produce, bakery products and proteins thanks to quality packaging that extends shelf life is the core objective of the EU-funded NanoPack Project.

For instance, fresh cherries, which were packed in NanoPack antimicrobial film, containing low concentration of various natural essential oils, exhibited an increased shelf life of 40%.

Some cherries were packed in bags made of NanoPack film and others in commercial film, both stored at the same holding temperature for 14 days and then transferred to an ambient temperature for 4 days.

Results revealed that NanoPack film extends the shelf life of cherries by two days. Only 33% of the cherries packaged in commercial film were saleable, compared to the 73% of NanoPack's. This 2-day increase in shelf life corresponds to an added value of 40% increase in saleability.

For bread and baked products, the results were even more dramatic, doubling the shelf life of some baked goods, without any preservatives added, in comparison to those packed in conventional plastics packaging.

"We are experimenting with a wide range of products—fresh produce, breads and pastries, as well as dairy and meat proteins. This means we must identify the best combination and concentration of essential oils as well as the most appropriate packaging format for each," says Elisa Valderrama García, research project manager for the NanoPack scientific team.

Feedback from several consumer studies shows considerable acceptance of the idea of extending shelf life and maintaining quality through slowing down microbial growth using nanotechnologies.

The 3-year development is now entering its final year. An important feature of the project is the goal of having a viable nanotechnology-based flexible film for commercialization by the end of 2019. The project is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 scheme to introduce nanotechnologies into flexible packaging.