The red chili pepper industry is a global phenomenon with its own preservation challenges. In this article, we explore the two main quality indicators as well as a potential solution to preserve the unique properties of red chili peppers.
Red chili peppers
Archaeologists have found that the use of red chili peppers dates back to as long ago as 7000 BC. Since then, these fruits have been used in a wide variety of dishes around the world. And for good reason! What would an Italian spaghetti all’arrabbiata or Mexican enchilada be without that spicy and flavourful kick that typically comes with the use of red chili peppers?
Pungency and colour
The ‘hotness’ or pungency of these peppers depends on capsaicin levels, the compound responsible for the burning sensation in the mouth, ranging from mild to extremely hot. This ‘hotness’ is expressed in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) ranging from 0 SHU for no heat to 16,000,000 SHU for pure capsaicin. However, over time, capsaicin levels are likely to decrease, compromising the pungency and, consequently, the quality.
While the level of pungency is an important quality indicator, another – no less important – one is colour. The pigments responsible for conferring the fiery red colour characteristic to chili peppers are carotenoids. The higher the amount of carotenoids, the deeper the colour and the higher the commercial grading. That makes it crucial to minimise post-harvest colour reduction.
Preserving capsaicin levels and maintaining colour, however, can be a challenge, especially during shipment and storage. And with red chili peppers worldwide being so popular, this is a global matter!
Of moisture, light, and air…
The chili plant, originally native to the tropical regions of America and Africa, is grown in many countries. The grown peppers are processed, cleaned, graded and packaged for overseas dispatch, often in bags in a dried variant. Upon arrival in consumer countries, spice mills further process them, ensuring they meet quality standards before being traded.
Research has shown that several influencing factors determine quality preservation during shipment and storage. These include exposure to moisture, light, or air. Moisture can cause mould growth, while exposure to light may lead to the breakdown of pigments – in the case of colour preservation. Additionally, exposure to air can cause oxidative reactions, when not controlled.
Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP)
And that is where a potential solution lies: control of the atmospheric conditions by applying modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). It is a method that has been used in the food industry for over 90 years to modify the internal atmosphere in packaging by reducing oxygen and replacing it with carbon dioxide or nitrogen. In combination with bulk bags featuring a multi-layer liner with high-barrier properties, the oxidation process is slowed down, successfully preserving the main grading qualities of the red chili peppers.
The VacQPack solution
Over the years, the VacQPack Group has introduced this revolutionary method all over the globe and gained a wealth of experience in bulk-sized packaging solutions and quality preservation across various commodities, including red chili peppers.
Savour the flavour!
We would be delighted to help determine how and where in the supply chain you could benefit from the VacQPack solution, ensuring the maximum amount of your pungent and deeply red-coloured peppers reaches that spicy and flavourful dish to be savoured worldwide!
We would be happy to connect you with our specialist for more in-depth scientific information.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org | +31 183 700137