Department store group Delhaize has been using state-of-the-art Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) for some of its fresh food products since the nineties. At first, it used MAP for fish and sandwich filling, afterwards, for fresh meat as well. The system is particularly useful in stores without their own butcher counters. These stores are growing in numbers as they reflect the trend towards smaller neighbourhood shops.
Self-service stores benefit from Smart Packaging
MAP consists of airtight trays filled with a mixture of O2 , CO2 and N2 to keep the food fresh for longer. ‘They are especially useful in our self-service stores where MAP makes it easier for us to offer fresh meat,’ says Jan Claessens, Purchaser for Delhaize’s Butcher Department. Self-service is gaining in popularity in Delhaize stores. The difficulty they face in finding trained personnel to process and sale fish means they have been using the self-service sales method for fresh fish since the nineties. Since 2000, the same goes for fresh meat, not only in the smaller AD Delhaize stores but also in the larger supermarkets. Small local stores are seeing something of a renaissance. That’s why Delhaize has divided its store offering into the City, Proxy and Shop & Go concepts. Most of these neighbourhood stores are franchises run by self-employed people who often do not have the personnel or infrastructure to run their own butcher counters.
No expensive equipment, less waste
MAP enables the Delhaize self-service stores to organize the selling of fresh meat more efficiently. They outsource all preparation and packaging to suppliers that use MAP. This means they do not have to acquire their own specialized equipment or qualified personnel. The prolonged storage life offered by MAP reduces product waste. This results in a broader array of fish and fresh meat for the customer to choose from, just as in the larger stores. What’s more, a MAP tray presents the product in an attractive way. ‘Belgians like to see what they are buying,’ says Jan Claessens. The sole disadvantage is that stores cannot meet demand so flexibly.
Good to remember
- MAP packaging ensures an aesthetically appealing product with long storage life. This leads to less product waste.
- At Delhaize, the storage life of food products in MAP packaging is always checked under realistic conditions, including transportation at 20°C.
- The introduction of MAP packaging makes it easier for Delhaize stores without a butcher’s counter to sell fresh meat.
How does Delhaize limit its waste in the MAP chain?
Step 1: quality control with suppliers
‘Our MAP is extremely reliable,’ states Jan Claessens. Delhaize imposes strict quality standards for its suppliers. For instance, the meat needs to be cooled after each processing step and prepared packages are checked for leaks at least two to three times a day.
Step 2: realistic storage tests
The longer the storage life, the higher the chance that the product is sold in time. This avoids waste. At Delhaize, the storage life of food wrapped in MAP is always checked under realistic conditions, including transportation at 20°C.
Step 3: packaging innovations
Delhaize is constantly looking for techniques to make MAP even smaller and more efficient. Currently, it is investigating a packaging technique with a semi-permeable top foil that ensures contact between the gas mixture and the meat at all times. Delhaize is also investigating the application of MAP trays made out of renewable materials.
MAP enables us to offer fresh meat using self-service and at the same time minimize non-sales. This eventually leads also to less packaging waste.s.
Jan Claessens, Head of Purchasing for the Butcher Department at Delhaize
You can improve the packaging of your products as well
Carefully selected packaging can improve the quality as well as the cost of the product you offer.
Tips from Delhaize:
- Tailor the packaging to the organization of your logistics and sales.
- Ensure good quality control throughout the entire logistics chain.
- Take into account the availability and motivation of your personnel.