(Food-Beverage-News.Com, February 19, 2021 ) According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), “Shelf life is the period of time, established under intended conditions of distribution, storage, retail, and use, that the food would remain safe and suitable, and shelf-life testing requires food to be stored under the expected conditions of storage and distribution for a period of time to determine at what point the food would remain safe and suitable.”
The shelf life of food & beverage products is the duration during which the food commodity kept under specific conditions, or storage, is expected to maintain its optimum safety and quality. While the shelf life of a product begins the moment it is processed and packaged into a finished product, these criteria change in accordance with factors such as its production process, type of packaging, storage conditions, and ingredients used. Additionally, the rise in the consumption of processed and packaged foods has led to increased use of additives, mainly preservatives, to improve the product’s shelf life further. This has resulted in a higher risk of contamination associated with these additives. Therefore, shelf-life testing practices of various food products are conducted to be able to determine a date within which the product should be consumed and are expected to be microbiologically safe.
The shelf-life testing market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7.0% during the forecast period (2018–2023), to reach USD 4.76 billion by 2023. Amongst various parameters for shelf-life testing, microbial contamination is estimated to be the largest in 2018 and is also expected to grow at the highest rate during the forecast period. Microorganisms pose serious health problems, resulting in strict regulations imposed by national governments and international bodies with respect to maximum content level in food products. As a result, shelf-life testing is essential to ensure that the microbial content is limited to only a certain level throughout the shelf life of the food products, thereby contributing to consumer safety and compliance with regulatory limits.
TD-NMR to be the optimal choice for determining shelf life The focus on reducing lead time, sample utilization, cost of testing, and drawbacks associated with several technologies has resulted in technological innovations and the development of new technologies in the spectrometry segment. Higher adoption of these technologies, with financial support from government authorities, is an opportunity for medium- and small-scale laboratories to expand their service offerings and compete with large market players in the industry, as these technologies offer higher sensitivity, accuracy in results, reliability, multi-contaminant and non-targeted screening with a low turnaround time, and cost-effectiveness, among other benefits.
The shelf-life testing industry is experiencing technological innovations as major players in the industry are now offering newer, faster, and more accurate technologies such as the TD-NMR (Time-Domain Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) for testing the shelf-life, and quality of various food product samples. The TD-NMR testing method has been widely employed for measuring oil and moisture content in snack foods, thereby enabling the cooking time for these products to be accurately optimized. Additionally, the TD-NMR method can measure water in different molecular environments, and also distinguish water from other molecular components of food. The most commonly tested parameters, while determining the shelf life of various products, are the oxidation of fats and texture & moisture content, thereby making TD-NMR the optimal choice for determining the shelf life.
Low Enforcement of Regulatory Laws & Lack of Supporting Infrastructure in Developing Economies to Inhibit the Growth of the Shelf-Life Testing Market The food industry in developing countries remains highly fragmented and is dominated by small and unorganized players, who may have not necessarily adopted proper food testing and shelf-life testing practices, leading to a greater risk of their contamination. Testing of food & beverage products such as packaged foods, dairy products, beverages, and meat products requires proper enforcement measures, coordination between market stakeholders, and supporting infrastructure. However, many countries that are classified in the cluster of developing economies lack these factors, which, in turn, restrain the shelf-life testing industry growth.
Food systems in several developing regions lack organization, sophistication, and technological capabilities for the shelf-life testing of food & beverage products. The infrastructure of food & shelf-life testing laboratories in many developing countries is likely to be scarce due to limited resources, limited technology, and poor management practices. There are numerous issues related to improper shelf-life information, such as lack of institutional coordination, outdated technology, less expertise for the execution of regulation at low levels, and a lack of updated standards; all these factors have been constraining the market for the shelf-life testing of food. Shelf-life testing laboratories are poorly equipped, with a substantial lack of suitably trained analytical staff, especially in the African and South American countries. India, China, and the Southeast Asian countries are among those getting financial assistance from governments to be able to develop technologies. The concerned regulatory bodies of these developing countries need to apply their resources for the development of infrastructure, food and shelf-life testing capacities, and technology enhancement. These developing countries also lack support from international agencies such as the FAO, WHO, and the World Bank. Thus, the lack of shelf-life testing infrastructure and resources in developing countries inhibits the growth of the shelf-life testing market.
Therefore, the market for shelf-life testing is expected to experience robust growth, owing to the growing demand for packaged & convenience foods and an increase in the outbreak of foodborne illnesses. However, improper enforcement of laws and lack of supporting infrastructure in developing countries are expected to disrupt the market growth during the forecast period.