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The Future MAP’d Out

Finlays Horticulture is pioneering home-delivered modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) flowers for Marks and Spencer. Valentine’s Day 2011 saw our business in Spalding dispatch 17,000 individual bunches of dozen red roses in MAP to M&S customers all over the UK, a first not only for Finlays Horticulture and M&S, but also for the industry.

MAP has been used in various guises for meat, fruit and other produce for many years, although until recently the applications for cut flowers have been minimal. In the case of cut flowers, the blooms are sealed in a MAP bag. Once sealed, oxygen levels in the bag decrease and carbon dioxide levels increase naturally. This change in atmosphere reduces the respiration rate of the flowers, thus extending the storage period and reducing water demand. Sending home-delivery flowers in MAP saves water, reduces packaging, maintains flower quality for longer, and improves logistics, both in terms of weight reduction and improved pallet fills.

In previous years, M&S Valentine’s Dozen Red Roses were delivered in the conventional water-packed format, each bunch held in a cello wrap containing 700 ml of water. The water-packed roses had to be held upright during the entire chain to prevent the water from leaking and then damaging the flowers or weakening the box. As the box needed to be rectangular due to size constraints, this was difficult to guarantee once it left Finlays Horticulture.

No water is needed in the MAP format, so in addition to eliminating water damage 11,900 litres of water were saved (or to put it another way, the equivalent of 47,600 cups of tea – that’s 5 cups a day for 26 years). Furthermore, removal of this water from the delivery chain reduced overall transport weight by 11.9 tonnes and the flat presentation allowed an increase in pallet-fill from 90 boxes for conventional water-packs to 120 boxes, a 25% space-saving, reducing lorry journeys.

Best of all though our customers enjoyed Roses that looked better and lasted longer. 40% fewer people were disappointed with the roses they received this Valentine’s Day.

Finlays Horticulture is now looking at expanding the range of flowers which can successfully use MAP. MAP offers clear benefits to product quality, logistics and to the environment when compared to conventional water-packs. As such, it would seem that the future is MAP’d out quite nicely.