Chiquita Brands International Inc. won't be using conventional plastic film packaging when it tries to extend the shelf life of its bananas.
The Cincinnati-based fruit supplier agreed to use special membranes developed by Landec Corp. in a banana packaging campaign it plans to launch early next year. Landec's Intelimer is a breathable membrane comprising a polymer coating on a highly porous substrate. The membrane's permeability to oxygen and carbon dioxide is controlled by varying the temperature of the membrane.
Landec spokesman Gregory Skinner said the exact composition of the membrane's polymer and substrate are closely held secrets for his Menlo Park, Calif., company. And Chiquita is not revealing yet just how it will use Intelimer, whether in bag form or sheeting.
``We have been evaluating the Intelimer packaging technology for bananas for two years and, based on the results, we believe this product will effectively extend the shelf life of bananas, which offers a significant benefit to our customers and consumers,'' Chiquita Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fernando Aguirre said in a Sept. 9 news release.
Under a long-term agreement, Landec's Apio Inc. subsidiary will supply Chiquita with Intelimer on a global basis in selective applications on an exclusive basis and for other uses on a nonexclusive basis. Chiquita must buy an undisclosed minimum volume of Intelimer to maintain the exclusivity. Chiquita spokesman Michael Mitchell would not disclose what the volume is.
Skinner said his firm does not manufacture Intelimer components. Undisclosed companies make the polymer and substrate, coat the substrate and cut it to meet customer needs. Company literature says the membrane's polymer can change permeability, adhesion or viscosity when heated or cooled by just a few degrees. Landec has 17 patents on such technology.
Mitchell said the agreement includes Chiquita buying a small amount of Landec stock instead of paying cash for the technology, as is typical in a royalty arrangement. Chiquita will buy up to 500,000 Landec shares, the exact number depending on Landec's stock price over a 20-day period. Landec has about 23 million shares outstanding. The firm's stock price was $6.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange on Sept. 9.
Landec has three core businesses. In food, its Apio subsidiary is a major supplier of fresh cut produce, kept fresh by its Intelimer technology during shipping to 9,000 U.S. retailers. Apio also markets Intelimer to other food firms. Landec's agriculture business focuses on seeds and seed coatings that control growth. Its technology-licensing business markets Intelimer in other markets, including industrial specialty chemicals and beauty-care products.