in HortScience
Author: D.H. Picha 1
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

The use of heat shrinkable plastic film for wrapping individual sweetpotato roots was evaluated as a form of value-added packaging. Individual shrink wrapping of sweetpotatoes is a recently adopted but increasingly used retail marketing technique. The shrink wrapping process involves enclosing individual roots in shrink film which is cut and heat sealed followed by transfer through a heat tunnel to create a tightly sealed package. Film thickness ranges from 40 to 100 microns (gauge). Manual, semi-automatic, and automatic application methods are available. Fully automated commercial methods approach a speed of 1 wrapped root per second. Shrink wrapping adds value to fresh market sweetpotatoes by enhancing appearance, reducing weight loss, and allowing for individual root labeling. Various film types and thicknesses were tested under simulated retail conditions. Root weight loss from shrink wrapped roots was significantlyreduced during storage, ranging from a total of 0.5% in wrapped roots to 2.5% in unwrapped roots after 3 weeks of ambient storage. There was an inverse relationship between film thickness and root weight loss, with the thicker gauge films showing the least amount of weight loss. Film type and thickness did not influence overall root flavor and sweetness perception. In order to reduce the incidence of surface mold, the root must be completely dry before wrapping. This form of packaging offers significant potential for enhancing retail consumer demand.

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