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Shelf Life Testing


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#1 CuriousTom

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Posted 03 July 2018 - 06:16 AM

Hi all,

 

Does anyone know how to determine the approximate shelf life of a product without going through full laboratory testing?

I've spoken to a company here in the UK that manufactures and bottles sauces for other companies, and they've said that they can either send products away to a lab (at an additional cost), or tell shelf life from the composition of the recipe and the pH of the finished product (their preferred method).

I've asked how they calculate the latter, but they won't really say. They're a legitimate company, so I don't think it's anything dodgy. I don't plan on using them as I'm still small, but I can't really expand on what I do without an idea of shelf life (and preferably not spending at least £4,000 that I don't have!)

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

 

 



#2 solid7

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Posted 03 July 2018 - 08:01 AM

To be able to calculate such a thing, you have to know some stuff.

 

What you are looking for, is the Arrhenius equation.  It's a differential equation, so it's a tricky bit of calculating. (hence, the calculator, based on whatever info you know)

 

https://www.shodor.o.../arrhenius.html


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#3 salsalady

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Posted 03 July 2018 - 01:17 PM

Are you looking for shelf LIFE or shelf STABLE?

 

Shelf life is usually in reference to fresh or refrigerated products.  I make a refrigerated salsa, all fresh veggies, no preservatives.  When getting licensed, it was $$$ for shelf life test, which is how long it can stay refrigerated and still be safe to eat.  Some refrigerated 'fresh' salsas have a shelf life of 6 months.  At the time I was going through the process, if I put the expiry date at 30 days or less and "Keep Refrigerated", I didn't have to do any shelf life testing.

 

Also note there is a difference in Expiration Dates (which means it is no longer safe to eat) and Best By or Best Before dates.  More info here~

 

Shelf STABLE is what most hot sauces get tested for.  The lab or Mfg will look at the ingredients, do a pH test, look at how the sauce is bottled (hot fill hold, etc...) and determine that when ABC Sauce is make with JHQ ingredients and packed with the HFH process, it is shelf stable.  Shelf stable means being able to be stored unopened at room temperature for an extended period of time.

 

SL

 

 


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#4 CuriousTom

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Posted 03 July 2018 - 01:22 PM

Hi SalsaLady,

Yeah, with those descriptions in mind, it's Shelf Stability I'm looking to work out.

Cheers,

Tom

#5 SeaSea

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 07:23 AM

Hi Salsa Lady,
hoping you could give me more info on the shelf life fresh salsa. I greatly appreciate your expertise.

I am the production queen at a very small company that produces a fresh made refrigerated salsa here in east central Florida. We use a 30 day best by date.
In many ways having the 30 day best by date works to our advantage as other local producers of fresh salsa in our area use a 60 and 90 day shelf life. Our products are usually delivered 24 -48 hrs of been made. When promoting it allows us to boost about the freshness of our products. Greater than 90% of the time our products will be the freshest on the shelf.
The downside is to keep our products as fresh as possible we have to deliver just enough to last each store 7 -14 days. Currently the cost of delivery is one of our greatest expenses.

Somewhere in this forum I think I recall you mentioning to have a longer than 30 day shelf life for fresh products you have to have further testing to satisfy an fda ruling.

Hoping you might elaborate on the greater than 30 day shef life and any testing necessary to satisfy fda requirements.

Thanks so much for any info you may have to share on the subject.

SeaSea

#6 salsalady

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 10:07 AM

Good Morning SeaSea, welcome to THP.

 

Congrats on your salsa business also!  Sounds a lot like my salsa operation.  Where I live is a remote, isolated valley.  There are only 3 food stores and one organic food store within 40 miles. I don't supply the health food store.  We've tried it and the people who shop there want organic, which I don't do, and the store is small enough that customers usually shop at the regular food store anyway, so if they do want my salsa, they buy it there cuz it was .50 or more less.  I've been doing this about 25 years, almost 20 years here in the valley, so I have a pretty good feel for how sales go at the different stores.   

 

My operation does a production run of a full batch about every 7-10 days in the summer and once a month in the winter (Feb-Mar-April).  SOMETIMES in the winter, if sales look to be reaaally slow, I'll do a half batch.  I don't like to do that because I have to pay the person who helps me the same amount whether it's a full batch or a half batch.

 

I leave the salsa in the stores right up to the pull date in the winter.  If your stores have room for some back stock and are willing to stock the shelves for you, I'd move the delivery out to at least 21 days if you can.  That's if you have a good enough feel and tracking of sales in the stores.  I don't have anything on the label that says "expiry" or "best by", I use a simple Monarch price gun and just put numbers on the back of the tub "05/28".  From experience, I know the salsa is good for at least 6-8 weeks before it starts to ferment. 

 

On the run we did a week or so ago, we did a full batch even though the stores still had some left over.  For one store that usually takes 100 pints, they had about 30 left.  I just gave them a credit on the new stock and marked the old stock down to half price.  The old stock was all gone within 3 days.  This was the first time in about 2 years where we had leftover, it happens. 

 

For testing- I'm assuming all your sales are local, none across state lines and no internet sales.  Your licensing should be completely done by your state agent, whoever did your initial licensing.  They are the ones to talk to about what they require for a longer shelf life.  My initial licensing was 25 years ago and I'm sure regs have changed.  There may be some classification that allows 45 days without expensive shelf life testing.  Your inspector would be the one to talk to about that. 

 

To start with, I'd suggest taking a little bit of the salsa, blendering the snot out of it to get it a really smooth puree, let it set for 24 hours and then do a pH test.  If you don't have a decent pH tester, ask around for one to borrow.  What you are looking for is the 'finished equilibrium' pH of the salsa.  Blendering it helps the acidity to equalize through all the vegetable matter quickly.  Think of making pickles...the whole pickles have to sit in the brine for 2 weeks for the vinegar to penetrate all the way through the cucumber.  Sliced up cucumber chips will be pickled in a couple days.  Smooshing it all up allows a pH test quickly and also gives a homogeneous sample.  If you test the chunky salsa, the sauce will be more acidic than a chunk of onion, and what you want is a test of everything in the salsa.

 

You may find that the salsa has a finished equilibrium of around 4.0-4.5 pH, which is good.  With this information, talk to your inspector.  He/She may make a determination on the spot that the salsa is OK to go 45 days.  Or they may want the salsa to be tested by a food processing lab for a proper shelf life test or pH test.  Maybe adding just a touch more acidity to the salsa might do the trick. 

 

Sorry I don't have any more specifics regarding shelf life tests.  Please keep up posted on what you find out.  Not a lot of people make refrigerated salsas.  Kind of a niche market.  I know what you mean about being the only fresh salsa on the shelf.  It cracks me up to see other salsas using canned tomatoes and with a pull date 6 months out.

 

Good Luck and again, keep us posted.

salsalady

 

  

 

 

 

 


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#7 SeaSea

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 11:34 AM

Thanks for taking the time to respond. The wealth of info you have supplied to this community is priceless.
We started our company just over 4yrs ago and most days it still feels like we are taking baby steps. As a local we are mostly responsible for taking care of our products but usually the mgr of the dept. our products are in or someone else within the stores are more than happy to help us out. Most enjoy our salsa so we give products away in exchange for helping us keep track of our inventory.
Currently we only leave back stock at a few locations. Good help is hard to find and many people are just there for a paycheck.

Ph testing is a done deal. Like you our products are good usually even beyond the 6-8 wks as long as proper refrigeration is consistant. Just cant figure out how other companies are claiming a shelf life of 2 and 3 months. Without using hhp or map packaging technologies how is it even possible?

We also have had our products in smaller health food type stores but over time have pulled out of all but one. In the beginning we were glad to get in every store we could. It is just part of the journey when getting started.
These days we are far more selective where we do business.

You gotta love what you do at this stage because the money isnt here yet. I do believe in " Life's Great Possibilities" and the customers that take us home with them thousands of times year confirm that we are on the right track.

Thanks Salsa Lady your Awsome Man! 🌞

#8 salsalady

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 12:40 PM

One other thing I learned is different departments have different margins. The deli is 40-50%, the meat department or produce can work with 25-35%. Changing who brings in the salsa may allow you a little higher wholesale while keeping the retail price the same.

I hear you on the hired help. I pulled out of one of the 3 stores for a couple years. I would go into the store, the shelf is empty, and there's 2 boxes of salsa in the cooler nearing pull date. Ggrrrr! Finally went back into the store after it was bought out by a different chain and most of the employees changed.

Well, keep at it. It is a journey. Got any pics to share?

SL
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