Breaking down Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Pavel Corena
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January 19, 2023
An image of white low density polyethylene coffee packaging white coffee bag LDPE coffee bags in an article Breaking down Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Preserving freshness is vital to maintaining the distinct flavours and aromas of coffee before it reaches the consumer.

Specialty coffee roasters know one of the most effective ways to do this is to package their products effectively. 

Advancements in packaging materials and technology, such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), have helped roasters preserve the characteristics of their coffees for longer periods.

In turn, this has allowed them to ship their products around the globe, catering to markets they would have lacked access to before. 

So, what exactly is modified atmosphere packaging, commonly referred to as MAP, and how does it affect the characteristics of roast coffee? 

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What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)?

It is important to note MAP can be broken down into two categories: active and passive. 

Active modified atmosphere packaging or gas flushing is the process of modifying the atmosphere inside a sealed package. 

This refers to the process of modifying the atmosphere inside a sealed package and is commonly used across the food and beverage industry. 

It is considered an effective and natural way to extend the shelf life of packaged food products, such as meat, vegetables, or coffee, to name a few. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the method has three primary goals: to displace oxygen to delay oxidation, to decrease the growth of aerobic organisms, and to help maintain packaging conformity. 

The idea is to reduce the level of oxygen inside the packaging by replacing it with other gases. 

Typically, roasters will inject gas into each coffee bag before sealing it. The gas tends to vary depending on the product, but carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen are most commonly used. 

Nitrogen is traditionally used for coffee as it is an asphyxiant gas and inert, meaning it will help slow the oxidation of the coffee. Notably, researchers have acknowledged gas flushing with nitrogen can help double the shelf life of food products.

An image of a sustainable one-way degassing valve fitted into a LDPE coffee bag in an article Breaking down Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) in the specialty coffee industry

A more common form of MAP used in the specialty coffee industry is the use of degassing valves in coffee bags

Degassing valves allow roasters to package coffee soon after roasting, as they let carbon dioxide escape the packaging, without allowing oxygen to enter. 

One-way degassing valves tackle a major problem roasters and coffee shops face when it comes to degassing, oxidation, and preserving freshness.

Passive modified atmosphere packaging

Passive MAP refers to the use of barrier packaging films and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) packaging.

Barrier packaging films and low-density polyethene (LDPE), often used together, create a physical barrier between the food item and potential contaminants. 

LDPE is an extremely versatile material with low water vapour permeability but high gas permeability, particularly with CO2. When it is used to wrap fruits and vegetables, it allows gases to escape instead of building up. 

Essentially, barrier packaging is any type of packaging that creates a barrier between the product and its exterior environment.  

Another popular form of passive MAP is the use of oxygen scavengers or desiccant packs. These refer to small packets that usually contain clay, iron fillings, and salt. 

Oxygen scavengers are designed to displace oxygen by producing nitrogen: switching out a corrosive gas for inert gas. 

The clay releases moisture into the sachet, which the iron fillings immediately begin to absorb. The presence of salt and moisture causes the iron filings to oxidise and rust, triggering the release of nitrogen. This, in turn, asphyxiates the oxygen, making it safe for food items. 

Desiccants are similar to oxygen scavengers but have a different focus. The little sachets are full of Silica Gel, and their only purpose is to absorb moisture. 

An image of a roaster weighing and packaging roast coffee in white LDPE coffee bags in an article Breaking down Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) in the specialty coffee industry

What are the advantages of Modified Atmosphere Packaging solutions? 

All players along the coffee supply chain can benefit from using MAP, from roasters and importers to farmers and traders. 

Green coffee travels long distances from producing countries. Modified atmosphere packaging solutions can help preserve the green coffee’s characteristics, ensuring they are highlighted once the beans are roasted. 

In the case of roast coffee, MAP can help ensure the coffee remains fresh until it is consumed, helping guarantee customer satisfaction. 

More so, MAP reduces the need to add preservatives to foods and coffees, implying that they retain their original, organic flavours.

Modified atmosphere packaging can also improve the visual appeal of coffee bags. Consumers may perceive the packaging as more complex, more sophisticated, and in turn, safer.

MTPak Coffee offers roasters and coffee shops a range of recyclable coffee packaging that can be used as both active and passive modified atmosphere packaging. 

Our range of coffee bags includes different pouch types made from LDPE, including side gusset, flat bottom, and quad seal. 

We also offer fully recyclable, BPA-free degassing valves that can be recycled alongside our sustainable coffee packaging. 

Our degassing valves usually comprise five pieces: a cap, an elastic disc, a viscous layer, a polyethylene plate, and a paper filter. 

Our sustainable degassing valves contribute to creating a user-friendly product for consumers and reduce the negative impact coffee packaging has on the environment.

Our line of sustainable coffee bags is made from renewable resources such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining

More so, our sustainable coffee bags and coffee boxes can be fully customised to reflect your brand.

Customers can add custom-printed sleeves to our coffee mailer boxes and coffee bags, attach stickers, print QR codes, or insert labels and cards inside to enhance the experience for each and every customer.

Due to our investment in innovative and eco-friendly digital printing techniques, MTPak Coffee offers our clients a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. 

Compared to conventional printing, eco-friendly digital printing methods consume less energy and resources thanks to reduced setup costs.

We also offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

To learn more about sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

Breaking down Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

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