Johnson Matthey/StePac Looks to Lengthen the Life of Fresh Produce Globally

Wed. October 7th, 2015 - by Jordan Okumura

UNITED KINGDOM - Johnson Matthey, the company that recently acquired the modified atmosphere packaging business StePac, is making strides to expanded its reach to post-harvest life extension.

Johnson Matthey is a specialty chemicals company and a global leader in sustainable technologies. Central to all of the company’s businesses are its sustainability initiatives, which are key to their strategy for continued growth. Many of the company’s products and technologies have a beneficial impact on the environment and improve the quality of life of people around the world.  

Headquartered in the UK and employing 13,000 people worldwide, Johnson Matthey (JM) recently founded a new business unit, Atmosphere Control Technologies (ACT), where JM’s expertise in gas absorption and catalysis will be applied to extending food freshness. 

Gary Ward, Technical Development Manager, StePac“To ramp up this new venture, JM acquired StePac, a veteran supplier of modified atmosphere packaging, to bring exceptional added value to the fresh produce industry,” Gary Ward, Technical Development Manager tells me. 

StePac has been active in the fresh produce industry for 20 years, during which time it has developed and fine-tuned packaging solutions for over 50 different produce items. It specializes in customizing the packaging to the produce in question, with the emphasis on providing the ideal atmosphere for preserving freshness, extending shelf life and reducing wastage in the supply chain.

Dwight McKabney, Business Manager, StePac, North America

“In Mexico, for instance, StePac’s established, high performing Xtend packaging solutions for cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplants and asparagus have become the industry standard for preserving freshness throughout the supply chain and improving the quality of the produce that the consumers purchase,” says Dwight McKabney, Business Manager for StePac, North America. “In order to help maximize performance, the company provides comprehensive post-harvest technical support to its customers and over the years has accrued much post-harvest know-how and expertise and is revered by the industry as a solution provider."

“The mission of StePac within ACT is to extend the useful life of fresh produce globally, through the application of post-harvest expertise, sustainability, and advanced packaging technologies,” says Ward. “Nevertheless, we have the technology and the vision to expand our footprint not only in the fresh produce industry but also in other industries where controlled atmosphere provides benefit."

Johnson Matthey/StePac

“The acquisition by JM is a springboard for further growth and development of Xtend products,” Gary adds. “StePac is a market leader in modified atmosphere packaging with a global reach, post-harvest expertise and applied R&D capabilities.  StePac’s broad understanding of post-harvest science and the global fresh produce market needs will drive the development of new functionalities by JM’s R&D and further differentiate our products from those of competitors,” Gary says.

There are several key market trends that are driving the use of shelf life extension technologies in the fresh produce industry, Gary notes, including efforts to reduce global waste of fruits and vegetables, increased nutritional awareness and promotion of healthy eating by governments and NGOs, increasing world population and disposable income and pressure to reduce carbon footprint. Johnson Matthey’s goals are to utilize these trends and drive sales of the company’s existing products in both tapped and untapped territories.

New and exciting products for which ACT has high hopes in 2016 include Xtend packaging for blueberries and grapes.

“Blueberry consumption is increasing, amongst other things due to its high nutritional value and increased awareness of the importance of healthy eating,” Gary tells me. “Xtend modified atmosphere/modified humidity bulk packaging for blueberries is becoming more and more popular amongst Chilean blueberry exporters on account of its ability to provide optimal modified atmosphere conditions and also manage condensation during prolonged shipment.”

Johnson Matthey/StePac

And it's not just blueberries. Xtend® modified atmosphere/modified humidity packaging for table grapes is also taking off. Limiting factors that affect post-harvest quality of grapes like fungal decay caused by Botrytis and stem dehydration, are imperative. Using Xtend® means there is no bleaching, off taste and less stem dehydration on grapes stored in modified atmosphere packaging.

So what else is upcoming for Johnson Matthey? Stay tuned and come visit them at booth #5029 at the PMA Fresh Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.

Johnson Matthey StePac