Oct 11, 2021

Doubling the shelf life of popcorn

We look at how a new barrier pack can increase the shelf life of popcorn and improve consumer experience.
Elisabeth Skoda

Popcorn is far more susceptible to moisture and oxygen than most other snacking foods. In just a few hours after opening a pack there is a noticeable loss of freshness as the product loses its crunch and becomes soggy. This is why Popcorn Shed, an independent London-based premium popcorn maker, houses its popcorn within plastic pouches that sit inside ‘sheds’ of cardboard packaging.

Popcorn Shed had previously been protecting its popcorn with a laminated barrier film. This PET AlOx / LDPE clear packaging is mainly used for ready meals and frozen food due to its reliable and strong barrier properties. However, the material wasn’t conducive to easy opening, which resulted in Popcorn Shed receiving several customer complaints.

As Sam explains: “We were receiving lots of complaints that customers couldn't open the bags without a pair of scissors, or it spilled on opening. So, while it provided a good barrier, it didn’t quite have the properties we needed to meet our customers’ expectations of a luxury brand.”

Additionally, its previously PET structure meant that the liner bag was non-recyclable. While PET bottles are recyclable, there is currently no recycling stream for PET-based bags and pouches. The new Amcor AmLite pouch is mono-OPP/PP which means that it can fit recycling streams available in several European countries.

Easy to open and recyclable

Popcorn Shed required a packaging material that would keep its premium popcorn fresh, was easy for consumers to open, and easy for them to recycle in some European countries.  Amcor’s AmLite Standard Recyclable packaging delivered on these three requirements, and the packaging can be recycled in front-of-store crisp packet recycling systems and is suitable for polypropylene recycling where the facilities exist (i.e. Germany).

AmLite Standard Recyclable is a line of metal-free, high barrier packaging that the company says enables brands to create attractively designed packaging while also keeping their product fresh.

The packaging offers the same high-barrier properties as conventional metallised orientated polypropylene (OPP). However, being metal-free, it has the benefit of transparency, which enables consumers to see the product inside the packaging, a requirement for Popcorn Shed.

The combination of an OPP structure and AmLite’s metal-free barrier has an impact on the recyclability of packaging. Metallisation can interfere with Infra-Red material detection systems at recycling sites, but AmLite Standard Recyclable can be detected and machine sorted for recycling.

Additionally, the company claims that the move to AmLite Standard Recyclable from the previous laminate has provided substantial reductions in carbon footprint, water consumption and non-renewable primary energy demand. The new packaging’s carbon footprint is said to be 58% lower.

Extended shelf life

Thanks to its barrier, Amcor’s AmLite Standard Recyclable packaging has reportedly doubled the shelf-life of Popcorn Shed’s premium popcorn. This has had an impact on the brand’s export and e-commerce opportunities, with global export now accounting for 25% of the brand’s turnover.

As Sam explains: “Since we implemented Amcor’s packaging our shelf-life into trade has gone from six months to twelve months, which is hugely important for the export market. When we’re sending products to Japan and Australia customers demand a twelve-month minimum shelf-life as the products sit on a boat for three months before they reach the destination.

“Other producers will gas flush the popcorn to keep food fresh for longer and achieve that shelf-life, but we don’t need to do that. Now, Amcor’s packaging ensures that popcorn that has been in the bag for twelve months is still as fresh as the day it was first made. We’re delighted with the results and will continue to use the bags moving forwards.”

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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