Edible Biodegradable Coatings and Films by Italians
IUV Srl is an innovative start-up that was set up in May 2019 focusing on the research, development, production and commercialization of modern, sustainable and natural packaging. The idea behind it, however, dates back to 2011.
“I was in high school in 2011 and, during a Business English lesson, the teacher talked about food waste by analyzing the data released by FAO. I found myself thinking: why not use waste to make something good? My course of studies provided me with the tools necessary to come up with formulas with a practical use thanks to the Columbus’ Egg technology,” explains Cosimo Maria Palopoli,CEO and founder of IUV (in the photo above with Maria Lucia Gaetani, Cto and nutritionist).
“There were also experiments with essential oils on fresh produce as post-harvest agents. The research focused on apples, pears and strawberries. But it was not enough, so we shifted to biopolymers, a class of molecules that derive from matrices connected to life, i.e. vegetable, animal or of fungoid and fossil origin.”
Columbus’ egg is a basic formula featuring biobased biodegradable-compostable natural biopolymers that preserves or improves the freshness, stability, shelf-life, appearance, flavor, color and aroma of food. The solutions offered include edible-biodegradable coatings and biodegradable films.
With the Columbus’ egg system, IUV aims at replacing plastic packaging within the Food&Beverage sector and to fight against food waste.
“What makes us stand out is the fact that we have a single formula that can be used in multiple aspects and that can be applied to food and non-food products. When it comes to food, the technology has been applied to fresh and dried products. On the former, the formula was applied as edible coating which is solid, colorless, flavorless and clear. In specific cases, natural pigments can provide color but remain nonetheless odorless and flavorless.”
Application of edible coating
Edible-biodegradable coatings are solid-elastic multi-layer systems that can be obtained from liquid formulas by way of repeated dipping.
Technical specifications such as layer number, size, thickness, color, aroma and flavor can be modified by using subproducts and waste from the food industry.
They are not a form of packaging per se, but rather natural replacement to additives of synthesis.
“The Columbus’ egg technology, enriched with extract and waste that can be included in the formula, can therefore be strategically personalized and becomes particularly advantageous for final users (i.e. industry and consumers). Shelf-life can be improved further by including natural or synthetic antimicrobials in line with current regulations. In addition, the coating can include functional products for the well-being of consumers such as probiotics and prebiotics.”
In the case of fruit, for example, we can have strawberries placed in their primary packaging but with edible coating. The same can work for fresh fruit salads: coated fresh-cut or ready-to-eat fruit can be placed in its packaging.
The Columbus’ egg™ brand is mostly aimed at companies in the fresh produce, dairy, flour and bakery, meat and fish, beverage and cream industries as well as the retail and H&R channels. “In the future, we are looking to reach the cosmetic and pharmaceutical markets.”
Case study: la mozzarella
“Edible coating is not just used to preserve the quality of a product, but it also represents an economic-financial advantage. Especially when it comes to exports.”
“With this coating, for example, we manage to preserve mozzarella without needing brine or freezing the product, which would usually be necessary with dairy products. Experiments are still being carried out when it comes to fresh produce, but the first results in terms of shelf-life report double values.”