Discover the Secret Sauce: The Modified Atmosphere Packaging Process Explained

Share This Post:

In the food packaging industry, a “secret sauce” is shaking up how manufacturers, processors, and distributors preserve product quality and freshness.

Say hello to MAP packaging techonology, the innovative solution that’s changing the way we preserve perishable food items. 

Thanks to MAP, food industry professionals can now preserve the freshness, flavor, and appearance of their products, ensuring they’re delivered in top-notch condition.

Our blog post takes you on a journey through the world of modified atmosphere packaging, unveiling the secrets to selecting the perfect gas mixture, packaging materials, and quality control measures to achieve the best results.

Demystifying Modified Atmosphere Packaging

modified atmosphere packaging applications

What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging ?

MAP is a technique used in the food industry to prolong the shelf life of perishable products by altering the atmosphere within the packaging.

It involves altering the composition of gases inside the packaging to slow down the natural deterioration process. 

By creating a carefully controlled atmosphere, MAP helps to maintain the food’s freshness, flavor, and appearance while also inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms.

What MAP does to prolong food goods’ shelf lives

By establishing a regulated environment inside the container, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), which minimizes spoiling processes such as microbial growth, enzymatic activity, and oxidation, increases the shelf life of food goods.

This ultimately improves food quality and safety. 

Let’s take a closer look at how MAP achieves this:

Factors Affecting Shelf Liferole of MAP
Microbial Growthsuppresses the growth of spoilage organisms (bacteria, mold) using carbon dioxide in the gas mixture.
Enzymatic Activityslows down enzymatic reactions by controlling the atmosphere in the packaging.
Oxidationminimizes oxidation by replacing oxygen with nitrogen or controlling its levels in the gas mixture.

Industries Benefiting from Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

From the buzzing factory floors to the hustle and bustle of retail, MAP is the invisible hero making a big difference.

  • Food manufacturers: For the creators of our favorite snacks and meals, MAP is the secret ingredient helping them deliver fresh, flavorful products to your dinner table. It’s like having a tiny, personal food preserver for each product. Now, that’s a whole new level of VIP treatment!
  • Retailers: For the businesses that fill our shopping carts, MAP is like a fountain of youth for products. It keeps the produce looking youthful and vibrant, making them irresistible to shoppers. After all, who can say no to a bag of salad greens looking like they were picked just minutes ago?
  • Logistics providers: For the ones ensuring your food travels safe and sound, MAP provides a breath of relief. They can rest easy knowing that the food products in transit are in a state of suspended animation, keeping fresh until they reach their destination.

From protecting red meat to keeping bagged salad crisp, MAP’s got it all covered. It’s like a superhero saga unfolding right under our noses.

But let’s brew a story in the coffee industry for a moment.

Most coffee roasters, sourced top-quality beans and perfected the roast, but faced an issue.

The freshly roasted beans kept producing carbon dioxide, causing the bags to burst and potentially harming the flavor.

one way gas valve

Enter Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) with a one-way gas valve.

This transition transformed their packaging struggles.

The valve let carbon dioxide out but stopped air from entering, preventing the bag from bursting and keeping the flavor intact.

With this change, the roaster went from battling packaging issues to delivering freshly roasted coffee, as good as the moment it left the roaster.

Gas Selection in the Modified Atmosphere Packaging Process

The right combination of gases employed in the packaging is what makes MAP so successful.

Oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitrogen are the most frequently used gases in MAP (N2).

Modified Atmosphere Packaging gas

Each gas plays a unique role in preserving the food:

  • Oxygen(O2): Most of the time, we’re trying to keep this guy away from our food, as it has a bad habit of inviting unwanted guests like oxidation and aerobic organisms.
    But, like a plot twist in a soap opera, sometimes we want more oxygen. Particularly with red meat, it keeps the color looking fresh-off-the-grill red.
  • Nitrogen: The reliable workhorse of the team. Nitrogen is like that dependable friend who’s always there when you need them.
    It’s the good guy, hanging around in packaging, preventing oxidation, and keeping aerobic organisms at bay.
    And the best part?
    It’s easy to get hold of high-quality food-grade Nitrogen.In the spirit of meeting our customers’ needs, we often jazz up our pouch packaging machine with a MAP flushing device.
    It’s particularly handy for those in the business of packaging tea bags and ground coffee.
  • Argon(AR): Argon might not be as common as Nitrogen, but it still packs a punch. It’s inert, odorless, and tasteless – the triple threat!
    The only catch?
    It can’t be generated on-demand and it’s a bit pricier. But hey, you can’t put a price on quality.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2): CO2 is very efficient at preventing the growth of microorganisms, such as mold and other types of bacteria that require oxygen.
    It shares the same odorless and tasteless qualities as Nitrogen and Argon, but too much of it can give your food a sour aftertaste.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO):Used similarly to Oxygen to maintain that vibrant red hue in meat, but it’s fallen out of favor due to regulations.
    It’s the bad boy rockstar who’s been banned in several countries.

Factors to consider when selecting a gas mixture

You should consider various criteria while selecting the best Modified Atmosphere Packaging Gases for your product:

Type of food product: The criteria for gas mixes vary depending on the food product. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, require a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide to keep their freshness, but meat items may require a different mix to keep their color and texture..

Desired shelf-life: The shelf-life that you want for your product will affect the gas composition that you choose. For example, if you want to maximize the shelf-life of a product, you may require a greater concentration of carbon dioxide to successfully limit microbial development.

Storage conditions: Product storage conditions, including temperature and humidity, affect gas mixture effectiveness. Higher temperatures may require more carbon dioxide to prevent bacterial growth.. 

It’s essential to consider these factors when choosing the appropriate gas mixture for your specific product.

Packaging Materials Used in the MAP Process

Choosing MAP-Compatible Packaging Properties

The success of your modified-atmosphere packaging depends on your choice of packaging material.

You should take into account the following characteristics while choosing packing materials for MAP:

Barrier Propertiesprovides an effective barrier against gas permeation, maintaining the desired gas mixture inside the package.
Seal Strengthensures strong seals to prevent leaks and maintain the integrity of the modified atmosphere within the package.
Clarity and Appearanceoffers good clarity and an appealing appearance, allowing consumers to see and assess the quality of the product.

Types of packaging materials

With numerous packaging materials available for use with MAP, industry professionals can choose the best option to suit their product preservation needs, leveraging the unique properties and benefits of each material.

aluminum foil film.jpg

Films: A variety of packaging films, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride, are commonly used in MAP due to their flexibility and thinness.

By creating an airtight seal around the product, these films preserve the modified atmosphere, with some having strong barrier properties that prevent gas exchange.

Trays and containers

Trays and containers: Preserving perishable products is made possible with MAP-compatible trays and containers crafted from polystyrene, PET, or aluminum.

These rigid structures allow for the creation of a modified atmosphere within the package through sealing with a film or lid.

gusset bag

Bags and pouches: Flexible bags and pouches produced from multi-layer laminates are ideal for MAP because they seal well and prevent gas penetration.

Fresh vegetables, pre-cooked meals, and other things can be packaged in these materials.

The Modified Atmosphere Packaging Equipment

Types of MAP equipment

For successful integration of Modified Atmosphere Packaging into manufacturing lines, industry professionals require specialized equipment designed to meet specific needs and specifications, with numerous types available to choose from:

tray sealer

Tray sealers:Tray sealers are dependable and effective packaging solutions for fresh vegetables & fruits, meat, seafood, and ready-to-eat meals. Gas flushing optimizes package gas mixture in some models.

horizontal form fill seal machine

Automatic flow wrapper machine: Flow wrapper machines are ideal for high-speed manufacturing lines because they continuously wrap and seal modified atmosphere packaging. These wrappers are used for snacks, candy, and bakery items.

vffs packing machine

Vertical Form Fill Seal Machines (VFFS): VFFS machine is an all-rounder. The packaging host be connected to a nitrogen flushing device as needed. It is great for loose products like chips, whole beans, or granola that can easily fall into their bags. Similarly, a one-way valve can also be added to the finished bag.

rotary pouch machine

Premade Pouch Packing Machines: These machines handle bags or pouches that are already formed. They fill them with the product and the modified atmosphere, and then seal them shut. The premade bag packaging machine was designed with redundant functions specifically for modified atmosphere packaging.

Factors to consider when choosing a MAP packaging machine

Choosing the appropriate MAP packaging machine is essential for a successful implementation of the modified atmosphere packaging process. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right equipment for your production line:

  • Production volume: Choose volume-appropriate MAP equipment to optimize your production process. Large-scale manufacturing requires high-speed equipment, while smaller businesses benefit from compact, cost-effective alternatives.
  • Flexibility and scalability: Choose equipment that can handle a variety of items with varying packing materials, sizes, and gas mixes. Consider scaling up or adapting equipment to suit future production demands.
  • Cost and ROI: Consider the ROI of MAP equipment, including installation, maintenance, and energy use. To decide if MAP equipment is worth buying, weigh the pros and cons.

Quality Control and Testing in the Modified Atmosphere Packaging Process

Importance of quality control in the MAP process

The modified atmosphere packaging process relies heavily on quality control to ensure the freshness, safety, and extended shelf life of food products.

To achieve this, a robust quality control system must be implemented, including:

  • Ensuring gas composition: MAP gas mixture monitoring and testing are essential for product optimization. Gas composition errors can impair shelf-life, spoilage, and safety.
  • Confirming seal integrity: The changed environment must be packed in a robust package. Leaks can threaten product quality and safety, thus seals should be checked and tested regularly.

Testing methods for the MAP process

To maintain the highest standards of quality control in MAP, various testing methods are available:

  • Gas analyzer testing: Gas analyzers monitor the gas composition in sealed packages to maintain the right gas mixture during the product’s shelf life. Handheld or incorporated into the packaging line, these analyzers monitor continuously.
  • Leak detection testing:Leak detection tests help find package seal breaches. Vacuum testing, pressure decay testing, or tracing gas with a detector can uncover leaks. These tests keep the changed environment and product fresh and safe.
  • Shelf-life testing: Shelf-life testing monitors the quality and freshness of packaged goods over time. By comparing MAP goods against those packed using traditional methods, organizations may evaluate their MAP process and choose the best gas combinations and packaging materials.

Conclusion: Unlock the Full Potential of Modified Atmosphere Packaging

The Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) process is a game-changer for the food industry.

By following the science behind MAP, choosing the perfect gas mixture, selecting the right packaging materials, investing in suitable equipment, and maintaining quality control measures, you can preserve the freshness and quality of your products for a longer period of time.

As a food industry professional, don’t get left behind. Discover the benefits of modified atmosphere packaging and set your products apart in the market.

Eric Lu

Eric Lu

Xhteapack Marketing Sales Manager, I am responsible for the company's social media campaigns and blog posts.

Free Latest Catalog

We’ll work with you to select the most appropriate packaging solution for your needs and budget.


Ask For A Quick Quote

We will contact you within 1 working day, please pay attention to the email with the suffix “”

*Your privacy will be 100% confidential