Spreafico Automation and University of Milan join forces for a research project

Spreafico Automation, a company which designs, builds and markets filling and packaging systems for the coffee industry, has established a partnership with the Dipartimento di Scienze per gli Alimenti, la Nutrizione e l’Ambiente of Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan’s Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences) for the study of the properties of self-protected capsules and the role of protective atmospheres in the shelf life.

The research team from the University of Milan will be able to apply their experience and knowledge in the field of packaging for the food industry. Spreafico has provided a platform to develop the study: a fully automated machine that has been designed and built in its plant in Calolziocorte, Lecco, and has been configured to fully meet the requirements of the university research team. Spreafico Automation will gain extensive knowledge of self-protected capsules and their behavior according to type and different use conditions. In practice, this means they will be able to better orient the customer, with a deeper knowledge than other competitors.

The project, which started in the summer of 2018, looks at self-protected capsules – those that do not need an exterior packaging but already have a barrier that ensures the product’s shelf life, and are commonly used in a wide variety of systems in the market, such as Nespresso machines and the foodservice industry.

This research project will look at the plastic materials used for making the capsule, the gas mixtures employed for the vacuum inside the capsule, the type and features of the packaging machines that are used and, finally, the quality of the ground coffee, that in its different varieties might possess characteristics which produce a notable impact on the behavior of the system/capsule. The preliminary phase has included a comparative analysis of the different capsule types currently on the market, examining the layers of the plastic structures employed, the evolution of the packaging gases and the interaction of the complex system coffee-capsule-environment in time, to understand the sensory and qualitative changes of coffee.

The aim is to be able to define how the interactions of all of these elements affect the quality of the finished product, so as to be aware of and create the conditions for an optimal capsule packaging which guarantees the fragrance of the coffee produced but also a shelf life that is as long as possible.

The project will also look at how to optimise not only the filling and packaging phases, but also the composition and preparation of the capsule, and the potential environmental impacts of these explorations.

Capsules are the coffee sector with the biggest growth, it shows an exponential increase in sales every year throughout the western world, registering an 18.8% increase in value and 20% in volume on the Italian market alone.

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