9 Methods to Extend Shelf Life of Fresh Produce

9 methods to extend fresh produce shelf life

With the increasing population, it is crucial to make the best use of natural resources. Water, fertilizer, and energy are all extensively used in the production and transportation of food. Regretfully, over 40% of harvested vegetables are wasted due to spoilage during export from one place to another.

Food can become contaminated and perish faster when it comes into contact with mold, yeast, and bacteria. Furthermore, food can become stale due to the oxidation of lipids and oils caused by oxygen exposure. Food deterioration can also be caused by naturally occurring enzymes, which can alter flavor, texture, and color. In addition, fruits and vegetables ' shelf life can be shortened by improper or damaged packaging that exposes them to air, moisture, and other pollutants.

Providing fresh produce with the best possible chance of surviving long-distance shipping is crucial. The advantages of increasing shelf life are:

  • Premium-quality fresh produce
  • Less chance of rejected shipment 
  • Reduced Food Waste and Loss
  • Higher profit margins
  • Improved Reputation for the Brand

The reasons for the degrading shelf life of fresh produce

If you want to preserve fresh produce for a long period of time, you need to understand the reasons for the degrading shelf life. Shelf life can be impacted by the following primary factors:

Exposure to Ethylene

Ripening is accelerated by the natural plant hormone ethylene. Certain fruits produce an ethylene gas that can accelerate the ripening and spoilage of other surrounding fruits.

Changes in Temperature and Extremes

Improper control of temperature can result in faster ripening, spoilage, and decreased quality. Damage might result from temperatures that are too high or too low for a particular type of produce.

Moisture and Humidity

Proper ventilation, the use of humidifiers, and routine monitoring all contribute to the maintenance of optimal conditions and the extension of shelf life.

Growth of Microbial Organisms

Produce can easily become spoiled by bacteria, fungus, and other microbes. Maintaining hygienic conditions in handling and storage areas reduces this danger.

Physical Damage

Cuts, bruises, and other physical injuries can make a way for the microorganisms to increase the spoilage of the fresh produce. To minimize physical damage, careful handling and proper packaging are essential.

What are the different methods to prolong the shelf life of the fresh produce?

The methods to extend the shelf life of the fresh produce can vary, depending on the nature, but there are several solutions to preserve their quality during transit.

Enhancing packaging and using Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP): These are effective methods to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Proper packaging enhances shelf life by regulating microbial development, ripening, and respiration.

It is important to control ethylene levels as it is a natural hormone that speeds up the ripening process, leading to the deterioration of the shelf life of fresh produce.  shelf life, specialized pallet covers, carton containers, and sheets can help regulate it. These packaging techniques not only preserve the quality and marketability of perishable goods throughout their distribution and retail cycles but also reduce the risk of spoilage.

Proper Treatment and Handling Process: It is imperative to enhance the methods of handling and treatment of fresh produce as soon as they are harvested in order to prevent any negative effects. Poor practices include, for example, cleaning with dirty water or storing products in infected containers. You need to reduce the use of excessive handling forces to maintain freshness. Maintaining the quality of the produce is made possible by strictly adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs), which guarantee proper handling throughout the supply chain.

Accessing Temperature Weakness in Cold Chain: Low temperatures must be maintained to minimize the degradation and microbial growth in the cold chain. The quality of the fresh produce might be greatly impacted by any temperature control compromise made from harvest to delivery.

For instance, studies showed that waiting four hours between strawberry harvest and precooling resulted in about 50% additional water loss and a negative impact on the fruit's look when it reached distribution hubs.

Monitor Humidity: In the cold chain, humidity monitoring is just as important as temperature tracking. These elements are crucial for preserving food quality and are frequently interrelated. High humidity prevents fruits and vegetables from losing too much moisture. Maintaining appropriate humidity levels is essential to minimizing shrinkage since refrigeration can lead to a loss of humidity.

IoT devices are used to track temperature and humidity from farm to client. This information not only guarantees that quality standards are followed, but it also points out areas that could use improvement.

Each Item Covering: Fresh vegetables have recently attracted a lot of attention to natural, plant-based covers. For example, Apeel has obtained significant investment for their creative approach. These coverings deal with the oxidation and water loss that degrade production and require oxygen. Reducing plastic use is crucial for the environment, despite supermarkets using individual plastic covers on fruit to extend shelf life. However, preventing food waste often outweighs the environmental impact of plastic use. Exploring sustainable alternatives is essential to addressing these concerns.

Use Smart Stickers: Fresh produce's shelf life can be efficiently extended by some compounds that have been examined for their capacity to reduce the effects of ethylene or inhibit microbiological development. The idea is appealing because of its ease of use and potential efficacy, even though more supply chain validation is required.

Absorbent Food Trays and Pads: Innovative absorbent pads are being developed for fresh-cut vegetable containers to absorb excess fluids and reduce product respiration. Even if these innovations are widely used in the industry, it is still important to stay current on them.

Getting Used to New Varieties: With the invention of agriculture, people have worked to create new produce types with improved tastes. These days, with international shipping, the emphasis is on developing types that hold up better on shelves. The USDA, for example, introduced a strawberry that had a longer shelf life. After a week in cold storage, just 29% of these young strawberries deteriorated, compared to 93% of Camarosa strawberries. If you're willing to try them, keeping an eye out for new varieties and thinking about alternatives can be good.

Organic Antimicrobials: Plant, herb, and spice extracts have antibacterial properties that help prolong the freshness of food. Finding natural chemical substitutes is essential as people look for safer products. This may also serve as a selling element to draw in additional clients.


Sticking to the right washing methods and post-harvesting techniques plays an important role in increasing the shelf-life of fresh produce. The use of efficient techniques such as appropriate packaging, temperature control, humidity management, natural additives, quality control, and clear labeling can help to retain the freshness of the fresh produce, thereby extending its shelf life.

At Citrus Freight , we ensure your perishable goods are exported in the best possible condition.