Food Technology – Shelf Life Testing

We solve your shelf life unknowns to help you produce safely and at the right quality so you can meet your commercial goals and your responsibilities as a food business owner.

Shelf life time frames are influenced by a number of factors, for example;

  • science
  • food safety and quality systems
  • processing methods
  • packaging format
  • regulatory requirements
  • customer requirements

We take a close look at

  • what you want to produce
  • how you are producing it
  • how you are selling it

Then we help you navigate The Lab.

Shelf life tests at the lab are expensive. The lab won’t usually tell you which tests you can do without nor interpret the test results for you. We will.

We will recommend the laboratory testing schedule with the minimun number of tests required to get a good picture of your product’s safety and quality risks and status at all the stations of the shelf life journey.

We price by product and process type. Get in touch for a quote.

Shelf Life Extension

Some shelf life factors are fixed – you will need a pH value of <4.2 for your marinated artichokes in those glass jars, for example.

However, a lot are fluid. Those same artichokes in retorted flexible packs could be far sweeter.

Then there is the time frame the public will accept. You would be amazed at how long a safe shelf life can be. For example; a sealed barrel of oats was found to be just as fresh and safe as the day they were packed 38 years before.

We can help you test an extended target shelf life, perhaps to

  • meet the requirements of a national distributor – they do like a few weeks rather than a few days
  • improve your processing efficiency through production scheduling – why run the line every week when you can run it once amonth?
  • take advantage of fixed or seasonal input prices – make sugo when tomatoes and backpackers are plentiful.

We look at all aspects of your current process and their risks of safety and quality hazards and review the possible outcomes of switching up your

  • processing equipment and systems – time to move away from handmade with love?
  • packaging – gash-flushing perhaps?
  • formulation – sometimes we like the right additives in the right quantities, not going to lie.
  • recipe – just a tweak of sugar or salt could make all the difference.
  • product format – is freeze to display chilled a better option for you and your customers

Disclaimer: All advice on packaging is a guideline based on evidence and best practice to meet regulatory requirements. The only way to prove at shelf life time frame absolutely is to test the product at the end of the target time frame, and that could be years away.

Case Study 1: Conscientious start up wants to get it right from the start.

Query: Can we help satisfy the local government food department (EHO). They won’t give us a food business license until we can verify our shelf life time frame. We make salty condiments, we know the shelf life is good for 12 months, how do we prove that.

Answer: Yes, we can get you over that line (if you know what you’re doing in the kitchen) and we can show you how to verify the shelf life of all your products, by category going forward. We want you to have systems in place that control safety and quality in your business so you can grow. We will

  • look at your product brief and get a picture of your products’ key properties
  • let you know the maxim shelf life time frame you could go for
  • write the laboratory testing schedule and show you how to prepare samples
  • analyse those results and log them in a chart so you can keep track yourself
  • write you a process verification protocol for your Food Safety Program.
Case Study 2: Quality over time.

Query: I know my product is safe but how long will the quality keep? I am worried it might “go off”.

Answer: Some products are at very low risks of food safety hazards, either they just are or good pocessing systems to make them that way. But the sensory quality of a product – how it tastes, looks, smells, feels in the mouth and meets consumer expectations – and has everything to do with the brand owner’s standards.

Once we have reviewed your safety processes we can work with you to establish benchmarks for the must-have sensory qualities of your product on the day it was made and on the last day of the shelf life date stamp. We will

  • describe, rate and rank the qualities you count on – this is a lot of fun.
  • write guidelines in simple language with scientific and technical back ups – so all your team is on the same page. Betty’s idea of “nice and golden” may be different to yours
  • look at all your processes to make sure they give your product the best chance of keeping that quality.