What Is the Number One Secret in the Process of Packaging Food?
You may not realize that nitrogen gas is used frequently in the food packaging industry to keep the products you buy looking, smelling, and tasting fresh. This “secret ingredient” increases the longevity of many products, allowing them to sit on grocery store shelves for much longer than they could have years ago.
The use of nitrogen in the food industry is growing rapidly, particularly due to its low cost and effectiveness in creating better consumer products. In addition to improving foods’ freshness and longevity, nitrogen preserves nutrients and helps prevent the growth of dangerous microbes. It does this by displacing oxygen, which can negatively affect the quality of fish, meats, fruits, vegetables, and other products. Not only does this process make the food much safer for consumption, but it also lowers prices for the consumer.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)
The modified atmosphere packaging process is an effective way to remove moisture and oxygen from food packaging. This helps the product last longer and minimizes the risk of mold and bacteria growth, all without compromising its taste or quality. The MAP method is also very cost-efficient, which allows food companies to offer products at much lower prices.
Nitrogen Generators for Food Packaging
Traditionally, companies that use nitrogen gas have relied on deliveries of nitrogen from a third-party provider. However, a growing number of businesses are beginning to adopt a more convenient, budget-friendly, and reliable option – nitrogen generators. These systems produce the gas on-site, eliminating the need for cylinder rentals and deliveries.
There are two primary types of nitrogen systems that are recommended for food processing and packaging – nitrogen membrane generators and pressure swing adsorption (PSA) nitrogen generators. These turnkey systems allow companies to produce their own nitrogen on-site and provide an uninterrupted supply of high-purity gas. Even better, nitrogen generator systems can be custom designed to meet each client’s specific needs, specifications, and budget. As a food manufacturer, you’ll enjoy low operating costs and a fast return on investment when you choose to install a nitrogen generator in your warehouse.
Nitrogen Membrane Generators
A nitrogen membrane generator is a complete, turnkey system that is ready for use upon arrival at your location. These generators are designed and built to your specifications and can be made to match your compression equipment for any application. Nitrogen membrane generators work by feeding pressurized air into a membrane, which is composed of a bundle of hollow fibers with small holes.
These openings allow oxygen molecules to exit through them when pressure is applied. The air stream is taken from the surrounding atmosphere, which contains water vapor, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon. However, the vapor, oxygen, and carbon dioxide have higher permeation rates than the nitrogen and argon gases, and, therefore, can move through the membrane with ease. This essentially separates the nitrogen, which stays in the fiber bore where it can be collected for later use.
Pressure Swing Adsorption Nitrogen Generators
PSA nitrogen generation is an excellent alternative to traditional cylinder deliveries, as it is cost-effective, convenient, and offers a rapid return on investment. Pressure swing adsorption is the process by which molecules are separated through rapid changes in pressure. This means that PSA systems can generate a supply of pure nitrogen by simply separating it from the atmospheric air.
The generator uses a specialized vessel containing a carbon molecular sieve (CMS) that is filled with compressed air. The oxygen molecules in the air are much smaller than the nitrogen molecules and are easily absorbed by the CMS material. This process leaves the larger nitrogen molecules behind to be collected in a nitrogen receiver. Once the pressure is released from the vessel, the oxygen molecules are vented back into the atmosphere. A second vessel is used in conjunction with the first to provide a constant flow of gas into the receiver.
PSA nitrogen systems provide a number of benefits, including:
- Budget-Friendliness – Compared to traditional delivery methods, a PSA system can save you a significant amount of money, as you’ll only have to pay for the initial cost of the system and any repairs you may need in the future. Food packaging companies also enjoy the added benefit of an uninterrupted supply of gas, as it can be produced on-site at any time.
- Energy Savings
- – The technology used in PSA nitrogen generator systems saves energy in two ways. First, the system goes into standby mode when no gas is being used, which reduces the amount of expended energy. It also monitors pressure continuously to make sure the supply of nitrogen meets all demands.
- Versatility – PSA nitrogen generators are ideal for use in a variety of industries beyond food packaging and manufacturing. These alternative applications include pipeline testing, industrial cleaning, electronics manufacturing, and more.
- Added Safety – Nitrogen cylinders are highly pressurized, which can make them a serious safety hazard if they are near excessive heat or open flames. PSA nitrogen systems, on the other hand, are much safer to implement. Additionally, these generators can be kept at room temperature, which eliminates the need for potentially dangerous cryogenic fluids.
- Reduce Carbon Footprint by Eliminating Delivery Trucks – When you rely on a company to deliver and pick up your nitrogen cylinders, you are also putting a lot of trucks on the road. These trucks emit harmful gases into the air that can lead to long-term effects on the environment. By using a nitrogen generator, you can create your own nitrogen on demand, completely eliminating the need for these regular deliveries. This step alone can make a big impact on your carbon footprint.
Nitrogen Cylinder Filling Stations
If your food production facility requires the use of nitrogen cylinders, but you would like to eliminate your reliance on delivery companies, a nitrogen filling station is an effective, budget-friendly alternative. These systems are easy to incorporate with any nitrogen generator and allow you to fill your own tanks with high-purity gas. Not only is this more convenient and reliable, but it also saves you money, as you can generate the gas at a fraction of what it would cost you to buy it and have it delivered. Most filling stations utilize booster pumps, which fill tanks with up to 2200 pound-force per square inch (PSIG) of nitrogen. However, there are higher-pressure options available if your operation requires more.
Nitrogen use has also become popular in the beer and coffee industries. When nitrogen interacts with coffee or beer, its bubbles enhance the frothiness, richness, and flavor of the product. For example, the gas is often added to cold brew or beer to create a silky-smooth foam layer that sits on top of the beverage. Nitro-blast systems are ideal for these applications, as they can be installed on-site at the point of service.
How a Nitrogen Generator System Can Benefit Your Food Packaging Business
Food processing and packaging companies of all sizes can benefit from the use of nitrogen in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, the gas allows you to preserve the quality and integrity of your product in plastic or cardboard containers, boxes, cans, bottles, and bags. By investing in a customized nitrogen generation system, you’ll enjoy higher quality products at an affordable cost – with no need to rely on an expensive nitrogen delivery contract. Plus, you’ll have access to a constant supply of high-purity gas, which can reduce production delays and ensure your processes are running efficiently.
If you are looking for a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective way to preserve the freshness and quality of your food products, a nitrogen generation system is the best option. However, before you make your purchase, its best to reach out to a reputable supplier that can guide your decision.
There are many different generation systems available on the market today, so it’s important to speak to an experienced technician who can help you determine your needs and find the best possible product. You should also aim to work with a company that offers complete customization. That way, you can design a system that meets your unique needs and truly benefits your business.