Technical note | Quality Evaluation of Dried Soup Mix Packaging
Soup mixes are dry products, making them vulnerable to moisture and oxygen during storage. Packaging must protect the product against rough handling and mechanical abuse, extremes of climatic and environmental conditions, and long periods of storage. Approval has been sought for the use of a paper/foil-based laminate to package soup mixes. To inform a decision on this request, the Defence Science and Technology Group has been asked to provide advice on compliance against Australian Defence Standard DEF(AUST) 10638 flexible packaging for combat ration packs, and to advise suitability of packaging for intended use.
The results demonstrated that the packaging material met water and oxygen barrier requirements, however did not possess mechanical strength sufficient to contain, protect and preserve the intended product throughout the warranty period. Recommendations for product improvement and further assessment, and improvement to DEF(AUST) documentation, have been provided.
The Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) submitted samples of soup mix packaging (laminate and formed packets) to the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group to assess its suitability for inclusion in combat ration packs (CRP).
The submitted packaging material was a paper/foil/polymer laminate. DST Group evaluated the function and performance of the proposed soup packaging against the requirements of Australian Defence Standard (DEF(AUST)) 10638, applying the methods specified in DEF(AUST) 10658; Part 3. The scope of DEF(AUST) 10638 assumes the use of polymer-based laminates and does not adequately consider the use of paper/foil-based laminates. Additionally, DEF(AUST) 10658, Part 3 does not specify test methods for paper/foil-based laminates.
The soup mix packaging was compliant for the following tests:
- oxygen transmission rate
- water vapour transmission rate
- compression testing
- package integrity (unfilled packets)
- ease-of-opening functionality.
The soup mix packaging was not compliant for:
- tensile strength
- puncture resistance
- tear strength
- package integrity (packets containing product).
Paper/foil-based laminates offer little in the way of mechanical strength and were not expected to perform as well as polymer-based laminates. The suitability for inclusion in CRP will only become clear if the scope of packaging evaluation includes exposure to environmental and climatic conditions typical of the Defence supply chain through to the use environment. Based on the evidence reported here, there is a moderate risk that the product will fail to meet the warranty requirement if the proposed packaging is used.
It is recommended that CASG:
- investigates options for improving the mechanical strength of packaging to ensure it is tough enough to withstand physical damage whether initiated by the product/packaging interaction or from the environment alone
- assess package functionality and performance once exposed to the use environment (inclusive of rough handling and varied climatic/environmental conditions)
- investigate the reasons why two of the three product variants submitted failed package integrity testing
- review DEF(AUST) packaging standards and methodologies to include the use and evaluation of paper/foil-based laminates.