Cartons That Could Juice Up Juice

FINE WINES AND BRANDIES GET BETTER AS TIME GOES BY, and the same might soon be true of grapefruit juice. In the case of grapefruit, the secret is in the packaging. Joseph H. Hotchkiss, a professor of food science at Cornell University, has devoted years of research to so-called active packaging. He dreams of packages that not only hold products but also improve them.

One packaging supplier is evaluating a carton that might make grapefruit juice as popular as orange juice. The paperboard carton is lined with a cellulose polymer impregnated with naringinase, an enzyme. Developed with the help of grad student Nelda de Fatima Soares, the coating breaks down the two ingredients responsible for the tartness of grapefruit juice: naringin, a natural component of citrus fruits, and limonin acid, a byproduct of pasteurization. The cellulose absorbs the limonin, while the enzyme "detarts" the naringin. In just a few days, the packaged juice tastes sweeter than the fresh-squeezed kind, says Hotchkiss.

Next, Hotchkiss hopes to find a sponsor for his microbe-killing packages. These shrink-wrap films and plastic bags would contain antimicrobial agents to deter spoilage of meats, cheese, and produce.

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