Over the past decade, advances in technologies, preparation practices, packaging, transportation practices and more have helped food producers improve their levels of shrink.

But that doesn’t mean commissaries, central kitchens and bakeries can’t do more to help reduce waste and improve the bottom line. Packaging, temperature control, processes and ingredients can help producers inch closer to their shrinkage goals.

Temperature control

Every step of a product’s journey — production, preparation, storage, transportation — is at the mercy of temperature control. For cold products, it’s keeping the food cold enough to inhibit bacterial and pathogen growth, which results in contamination. For prepared foods and other cooked items, it means cooking them at high enough temperatures for long enough that they are safe enough to preserve and package.

Missteps along the way can cause a spike in temperature which could result in a high amount of shrink.

Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Distribution Practice guidelines help producers keep a system of best practices that will mitigate the change of food contamination due to compromised temperature control.

RS Calibration Services, based in Pleasanton, California, sells a range of calibration services to help food producers regulate temperature.

“To ensure that the correct temperature range is measured and maintained, temperature sensor devices should perform optimally and deliver precise results consistently,” the company says. “Such precision can only be ensured with the help of perfectly calibrated temperature devices.”

RS Calibration offers calibration services for most temperature and humidity instruments, provided by its in-house temperature and humidity lab, which uses test equipment traceable to National Institute of Standards and Technology. On-site calibration of temperature, humidity, pressure, flow and more can be applied to refrigerators, freezers, hot boxes, temperature controllers, temperature monitoring services and more.

Delta T Systems, headquartered in Richfield, Wisconsin, maintains a singular focus on temperature control systems — heating, cooling, or a combination of the two. The company’s customers range from dairy processors making cheese to candy makers melting chocolate.

The company introduced a fully integrated, dual zone temperature control heat/chiller combo package earlier this year. The technology, which the company says is a completely new concept, allows manufacturers to implement energy efficient control systems that include variable speed compressors and fan motors to control temperature precisely in a broad variety of production processes.

Packaging matters

Tosca —an Atlanta-based supply chain management — is spreading the word on the benefits of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) when it comes to perishables, especially when it comes to managing shrink,

The company says moving fresh foods through the supply chain with corrugated boxes can result in crushed or damaged packaging, leading to damaged products, which chips away at profits.

Tosca says its RPCs are creating a smarter way to move fresh foods, resulting in significant savings through reduced shrink and greater supply chain efficiencies.

“Based on a recent conversion by a national grocery retailer, Tosca’s RPCs were able to reduce shrink by 1% which is a cost savings of more than a million dollars,” the company says.

The company also says its processes help met food safety standards, ensuring that manufacturing facilities can rest easy when using RPCs. Tosca’s processes work toward multiple goals, including: ensuring the materials used in making RPCs are safe for use with food; ensuring cleaning processes achieve optimum reduction of biological, chemical and physical hazards; and supporting the food safety efforts of every customer the company works with.

The importance of process

According to Date Check Pro — a Madison, Wisconsin-based company that provides software geared to reduce waste — processes are organized, purposeful and structured so that they may consist of interrelated and interdependent pieces. The elements influence one another to maintain their activity and the existence of the process.

With processes having inputs, outputs and feedback mechanisms, they can keep what’s important — food in this case — at a steady state despite a changing external environment.

Simply, if one link of the chain is weak, it puts everything at risk.

“Processes underlie every phenomenon, and all are part of a larger system,” the company says. “Process stops functioning when a piece is removed or changed significantly. Together, they allow understanding and interpretation of the supermarket as a whole system of interlinked wholes, and organize our thoughts about the product, service, and people.”

Ingredient help

Food production facilities can look to ingredient suppliers for help in keeping their products as fresh as possible. St. Louis-based AB Mauri offers a number of products it says help resolve shelf life extension and freshness retention issues. The company says its unique composite enzyme-based ESL solutions can keep baked goods fresher longer and under a variety of circumstances.

AB Mauri Bakery Ingredients’ mold inhibitors help reduce the growth of mold and bacteria that are responsible for spoilage in many food products. The end result, the company says, is a longer shelf life for cakes, pies, muffins, tortillas and breads. The company’s vinegars also help with inhibiting mold, while also providing a high-efficient, natural cleanser for equipment. The acidulants are designed to react with chemical leaveners so that gases are released in a timely manner. They are free of clarifiers, preservatives and other impurities and a special process is used to create consistent, high-quality vinegar with strong characteristics of flavor and aroma.

Corbion, headquartered in Lenexa, Kansas, offers its Verdad family of products to help extend shelf life and freshness in meat solutions. It aids in the reduction of microbial spoilage, tackling purge and yield while increasing color stability.

The company’s Opti.Form Ace antimicrobial ingredients contain higher levels of acetate, which enable facilities to reduce the addition level, thus cutting the cost of shelf life ingredients. It’s suitable for a wide range of meat products in optimum formulations and is available in powder format, enabling low dosage and easy handling.