he Adelaide Plains in South Australia were once known as fertile ground, but now farmers in the region are struggling. Last year, grain was harvested at a 76 percent lower yield than 3 years ago as rainfall has been at historic lows.  

Today, Australia is using 350 percent more water than the available renewable supply, according to the Global Resource Management Index.  

“Climate variability is impacting the availability and price of feed,” Paul McGuire, Market Manager - Darfresh®, Australia & New Zealand at Sealed Air explains. “And this unpredictable weather is only expected to worsen, affecting our natural resources.” 

Climate Variability's Effect on Grain Harvest

For Don KRC Fresh, a division of George Weston Foods, and other pork processors who relied on those crops for livestock feed, “business as usual” was no longer an option. From farming through packaging and distribution, identifying opportunities that would enable a more sustainable supply chain was essential.

To make operations more resilient to water scarcity and climate change, Don KRC looked for ways to maximize resource use at its Murray Bridge plant. Located close to farms, grain supplies and transportation, the facility allowed for distribution across South Australia. 

Across the supply chain, Don KRC’s customers were challenged by slow stock rotation and retail shrink, which was largely influenced by the small population of South Australia. And we know that nearly two-thirds of these losses in retail food stores are due to date management and spoilage, according to a 2015 report.  Supermarket leaders believe that they can capture 10 percent of lost revenue by reducing food waste in their operations. With those savings, 56 percent of retailers now consider shelf life an important factor in deciding whether to carry a product.  

Extending shelf life helps reduce food waste

“A limited shelf life leads to the consumption of more resources and places greater demands on our planet. This also comes with an economic cost as it compromises bottom line profitability for grocery stores and pork processors alike,” McGuire says. “If you could extend the shelf life of those products, store managers could better manage their inventories and reduce that waste.”

Don KRC already invested in equipment that used a modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) approach to maintaining freshness. This technology uses a mixture of gasses to change the atmosphere around the product. In the right ratios, this gas mix can help extend product shelf life to 14 days after processing.

“While 14 days may seem like a long time, we knew we needed to extend it further in order to remain competitive,” McGuire says. “With a 14-day shelf life, the company could only distribute their products within 1000 kilometers around the Murray Bridge plant.”

Sealed Air's vacuum skin packaging extends shelf life

Don KRC reached out to McGuire to learn about the latest in meat packaging technology and he introduced them to Sealed Air’s Darfresh® vacuum skin packaging solution. Instead of changing the atmosphere, vacuum skin packaging removes the oxygen altogether. As a result, the shelf life could be doubled to 28 days. 

Immediately, Don KRC saw an 84 percent increase in sales since switching packaging formats. One year later, the extended shelf life enabled the product to span nationwide. Don KRC launched their pork products in 16 IGA supermarkets across South Australia and nationally in Food Work stores. Retailers are seeing the value in their products and are reporting reduced retail shrink.

Beyond those benefits to their business operations and revenues, the Australian Institute of Packaging named Don KRC the Retail Category winner of the 2016 Save Food Packaging Awards. 

“Darfresh technology allows Don KRC and their customers to protect the many resources required to produce their hard earned harvests,” McGuire says. “They’re now able to reduce waste, positioning their business to be more flexible and resilient as climate change intensifies.”

If you’re interested in learning how your business can improve the shelf life of its meat products, contact our Food Care team today