Vacuum skin packaging (VSP) is a state-of-the-art packaging technique that consists of a thin layer of plastic film over a thermoformed tray or formed plastic container. The plastic film provides a highly transparent layer of protection from air and moisture that can cause product degradation and spoilage, while simultaneously allowing customers to view the product without risk of contamination. Point Five Packaging offers a variety of VSP packaging machines and materials, as well as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) equipment and materials to suit the needs of any application.
How Vacuum Skin Packaging (VSP) Works
VSP technology combines a durable high-barrier film with a solid plastic or laminated paperboard sheet or tray pre-designed to suit the product and match the company’s branding. Vacuum sealing removes air and potential airborne contaminants from the product within the sealed packaging to prevent microbial growth and product oxidation, making it ideal for perishable food products, including meat, poultry, fish, produce, and pre-cooked meals.
Some of the various benefits that VSP packaging provides include:
Microbial Growth Reduction
Food degradation is often caused by microbial growth. VSP prevents this from happening as it removes the oxygen necessary for bacteria, mold, mildew, and yeast to live and reproduce. This ability is enhanced when accompanied by other prevention methods such as freezing, refrigeration, dehydration, and heat sterilization.
Reducing the oxygen around food products also prevents oxidation. Oxidation occurs when fats and pigments in food are exposed to oxygen molecules, causing them to lose flavor and color. Oxidation also causes food products to lose vitamin C and A, making them less nutritious. VSP keeps food from being exposed to oxygen, thereby maintaining the fragrance, color, and nutritional value of packaged products.
Enhanced Protection for Shipping and Distribution
VSP offers the added benefit of reliable, durable trays that support and protect products during shipping, storage, and display as it keeps the food product in place. The rigid tray surface provides additional protection from the unpredictability of supply chain distribution, transport, and in-store handling, ensuring that customers receive an attractive product and no damage is incurred in transit.
Appearance and Display
Because the VSP film is designed to cling closely to the product and seal out outside contaminants, VSP packaging is a top choice for meats and seafood. This construction also means the product is clearly visible for consumers to inspect in-store. The film also minimizes the migration of liquids in and around the tray, making for a more appealing product on the shelf.
Differences Between MAP and VSP
Although MAP and VSP appear similar, they use fundamentally different processes to protect food from contamination. MAP processes adjust the air composition in the package to reduce oxygen content and therefore limit the potential for oxidation and microbial growth. This is done with a machine that removes the ambient atmosphere surrounding the food and replaces it with a lower-oxygen gas mixture.
MAP packaging is well-suited for:
- Ready to eat meals
VSP, on the other hand, removes all ambient air around the product and does not replace it with another gas or air mixture. VSP significantly reduces or eliminates the exposure of products to any oxygen and also allows the product to adhere more closely to the protective tray and film, reducing the risk of physical damage and extending the product’s shelf life.
VSP is often a preferred packaging choice for:
- RTE meals
VSP Packaging Materials
VSP is specifically distinguished by its use of thin, transparent plastic film, also known as skin film, over trays composed of strong, durable, leak-proof materials. Skin film, largely composed of polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), adheres differently to varying substrate materials, so it is important to understand the physical properties of the different tray materials in order to choose the best option for your product.
Some common tray materials include:
- Crystallized Polyethylene Terephthalate (C-PET). This material is freezer, oven, and microwave safe C-PET trays, making it ideal for premade frozen meals. Custom C-PET trays can come in a variety of colors for optimal storage life and brand appeal.
- Polypropylene (PP). PP trays and skin boards are especially useful for deep-freezing applications where other materials might crack. Since the material can be heated, it is often used to extend the shelf life of heat-and-eat foods. This material can be available in clear, black, white, and custom printed designs.
- Laminated Paperboard sheet or formed trays are versatile, eco-friendly options that can be manufactured in varying thicknesses and sizes to meet particular product needs; however, it can become waterlogged if exposed to high levels of moisture.
The VSP Vacuum Sealing Process
While there is a wide array of VSP machines currently on the market, many follow a similar sealing process to keep fresh food safe and sealed for longer shelf life:
- The product is placed in a VSP-safe tray and brought through a machine to a vacuum sealing chamber.
- Within the vacuum sealing chamber, a vacuum nozzle removes the ambient oxygen and atmosphere that surrounds the product.
- Immediately after the vacuum removes the air, the VSP machine draws the pliable film down over the product to seal out the surrounding oxygen and contaminants.
- The plastic film may be heated to seal it around the product to the bottom of the tray, preventing leakage and contamination.
VSP Machines may be semi-automated or fully automatic; choose carefully, because your machine choice can impact machine price, production costs, and lead times. A good packaging supply company will help you weigh the pros and cons of each and help you to choose the right system for your needs. For more information regarding our VSP Packaging machines, please visit our Food Packaging Machines & Systems page today
Food Packaging Machines & Solutions from Point Five Packaging
At Point Five Packaging, we pride ourselves on providing the latest VSP technology for our customers in a wide range of industries. Whether you are in need of VSP equipment for intermittent small-scale packaging or high-volume production, we have the industry knowledge and experience necessary to ensure that you have the perfect VSP solution for your needs. Our extensive selection of VSP-capable machines includes: