During the last decennium, the consumer demand for convenient food packaging has steadily increased. Having an easy-to-open seal is a crucial aspect, both for convenience as for the quality assurance of the food product. This demand has motivated material researchers to develop new sealants that are now on the market. However, to the best of our knowledge, research into the post-seal quality during and after (thermal) treatments has not been investigated thoroughly.
Therefore, the aim of the CORNET project is to investigate the effect of thermal processing on the quality (e.g. seal strength, tightness) of the easy-peel seals before, during and after such treatments.
What are the practical questions we want to answer?
- Which packaging material should I choose when I have a target consumer peel force in mind, and have a well-defined thermal treatment step to assure product safety?
- What is the effect of the parameters of my sealing machine (time, pressure, temperature) on the seal quality before, during and after thermal treatment?
- When applying thermal treatment, what is the maximal temperature gradient I can induce that still guarantee a good quality seal?
- How do package shape and seal contour influence the seal integrity during thermal treatment?
How will we do this?
- We will select the most relevant film/tray material, and will characterize them using reference methods (DSC, viscosity, physical parameters).
- We will investigate the relation between (film x seal parameters x thermal treatment parameters) and the seal quality. This will be based on samples rather than on packages to standardize our measurements and findings.
- We will then run experiments on the packaging level, where we focus on trays and pouches.
- We will use these results to develop an optimization model with a limited number of tests to predict the peel behavior.
Expected results and practical recommendations for industry?
- We will apply the results on films or packages of our user commission. This way, there is a direct benefit for their own business.
- A best practice guide will tell a producer which packaging material to use, how to seal it, and will define limits on thermal gradients the package will be able to resist.
- An easy-to-use module will be developed and will be accessible to user committee members to optimize their own process.