Red strawberry

Ground breaking packaging news has reached CW Towers, British retailer Marks & Spencer is launching new packaging to extend the life of strawberries. The store, whose food adverts have become much copied in recent years, say their new packaging will extend the life of fruit stored in the fridge by up to two days. So these are not just any berries, these are M&S berries, but why?

The packaging apparently uses a 8cm x 4.5cm strip that contains ‘a patented mixture of clay and other minerals that absorb ethylene‘. Ethylene, or as we chemists tend to refer to it, ethene, is the smallest possible alkene and a well known plant hormone involved in the ripening of fruit. It’s why the trick of putting a ripe banana in a bag with unripe fruit will ripen it. I haven’t found the patent from the firm involved, but we can make some educated guesses about how this works. Clay is an aluminosilicate with a large volume, so perhaps what we’re talking about something akin to a zeolite, with a large surface area for the gaseous ethene to adsorb onto. And as for the other minerals, perhaps the pores are impregnated with some antibacterial agent, like silver, to keep the fruit extra fresh. That’d be my guess.

But I can’t help thinking this is of more use to the store itself, for preventing fruit spoilage on the shelves. I certainly don’t tend to take strawberries home and stick them in the fridge, I wash them and put them in the fruit bowl, or just eat them all at once and I doubt I’m the only one. But maybe I am, would this help you?

If you want to read more about how chemistry is being used in packaging, check out this feature that Nina wrote in 2009, as well as searching for more recent news articles.

Laura Howes

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