(Oct. 24) LAS VEGAS — Consumers today are determined to purchase the freshest product possible, and that mindset is helping to revolutionize the packaging industry.

Accommodating the consumer’s changing preference is what drives packaging innovation, and because breathable polymers have proven effective in preserving a product’s shelf life, their value and development has recently been underscored, said Donna Visioli, senior technical programs manager for DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers, a division of Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Corp.

Visioli addressed the issue in her presentation, “Advances in Breathable Polymers,” at the 2007 Las Vegas Pack Expo on Oct. 15-17.

“Freshness and the packaging barrier are linked,” Visioli said. “Breathable polymers are an enabling technology for enhancing freshness.”

Data supports Visioli’s conclusion.

According to results from a 2005 Dupont survey, 60% of consumers ranked freshness or taste as the most important aspect in purchasing food, and 72% said they were willing to pay at least 10 cents more on a $3 food item to ensure freshness.

Breathable polymers allow for oxygen transmission, which is critical in fresh packaging because it helps slow produce decay — a significant problem in the industry.

The majority of consumers blame spoilage on the packaging, and typically their perception is based upon the product’s appearance.

“Food appearance is key,” she said. “Ninety percent (of those surveyed) use appearance of food to determine if it is spoiled or needs to be tossed. Seventy-seven percent (of those surveyed) had to toss a product because of a packaging problem.”

Statistics such as these have caught the packaging community’s attention and brought change in the production of breathable polymers, Visioli said.

“We have an opportunity to improve the shelf life of products to control the waste,” she said. “The challenge for us is to translate packaging trends.”

The move already is evident, as perforation patterns and coextrudables are being used more frequently in manufacturing, and creativity and improved shelf appeal are being considered during the design phase, Visioli said.