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How Did We Make Mana’s Shelf Life So Long?

Since the beginning, we have developed Mana to be an all-in-one food. This means that our entire product line is not just delicious and nutritionally complete, but friendly towards the environment. Neither ManaPowder nor ManaDrink require any refrigeration, so they can both be taken just about anywhere. The ManaBurger, which is currently only on sale via our German and Czech eshops but coming soon to all EU, is stored frozen. How did we develop such nutritionally rich, non-perishable foods without artificial preservatives?

In order to keep Mana fresh, we have to prevent chemical changes from occurring therein–in particular oxidation of its sensitive ingredients and their subsequent interactions with other ingredients. We also have to guard against microbial contamination and the resulting degradation of ingredients. These processes would impair the sensory qualities of our products and reduce their content of nutrients such as vitamins. Our solution is to use A-grade ingredients, lots of natural antioxidants, which of course prevent oxidation, and high-tech packaging that keeps out moisture, UV radiation, oxygen, microorganisms, and other elements that may degrade Mana. 

Breakdown of details by product

The ManaBurger is the world’s first nutritionally complete, plant-based burger. Its nutritional composition is so close to that of meat that it must be similarly processed and stored at -18 °C. It comes wrapped in polyethylene and paper bags, and is delivered using dry ice. Thanks to sophisticated production technology and high-quality ingredients, it can keep for one year if deep-frozen.

ManaPowder is packed in three-layer PET/ALU/PE pouches, which are then packed in paper boxes made from 80-90% European recycled paper. Our products are subject to continuous laboratory testing, thanks to which we were able to safely extend the shelf life of our Mark 6 recipe of ManaPowder to 18 months (up from 12 months–the shelf life of our Mark 5 recipe). ManaPowder is highly stable due not just to 21st-century packaging, but to large quantities of natural antioxidants in optimal ratios, such as vitamin C, tocopherols, lecithin, and flavonoids. Once opened, the shelf life of a pouch of our powder is 1 month. The purpose of the pouches is to isolate Mana from external influences so, even after opening, they be closed and reopened using the ziplock seal. Mana’s long shelf life increases its probability of being consumed, making it and its packaging therefore much less likely to be wasted.

Paper box made from 80 - 90% European recycled paper.

Even greener packaging for regular users

In March of 2020 we released our Family Pack–a 140-meal bulk package designed to feed a family of 4 for a week. This is our most economical and sustainable package to date. 12 Family Packs would be enough to feed an average adult for 1 whole year. The Family Pack uses 8 times less paper and 4 times less plastic that our standard powder packaging! It consists of a paper bag and airtight PA/PE film, which has excellent mechanical properties and properties that protect against the penetration of fumes and other external influences. These layers can be easily sorted into paper and plastic. Once opened, the Family Pack has a shelf life of 1 month, but if transferred to airtight containers, this period can be extended to a minimum of 6 months.

ManaDrink requires no preparation and is ready to open and drink. To ensure stability, it has been subject to UHT treatment, whereby the contents of the drink are briefly heated to above 130°C in order to kill all microorganisms. The exact temperature and length of treatment are determined with a view to maximum retention of healthy nutrients, as well as other processes that increase the nutritional value of the drink.

In order to make ManaDrink user-friendly, we had to use comprehensive TetraPak packaging, which consists of 75% cellulose and several other layers of aluminum and polyethylene foil. The package itself is sterilized before being filled. Thanks to this, ManaDrink can be stored for 12 months, without a reduction in flavour or nutrition content. Once opened, ManaDrink should be consumed immediately or stored in the refrigerator.

Why do we use such complex packaging? Can it be recycled or reused?

The packaging of ManaDrink is the perfect protection of its contents. It allows us to produce Mana without any artificial preservatives. These packages are usually partially recycled, broken down, and separated; the paper component is reused for paper production, and the polyethylene with aluminum is usually used as fuel in cement factories, where it becomes part of the cement, and thus acts as a replacement for expensive fuels.

There are many other ways to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials. For example, a number of modern technologies are capable of decomposing mixed packaging via pyrolysis into usable gases or liquid factions similar to oil. These can then be used to manufacture a wide range of other products, from vitamin A to iron–including gasoline, diesel fuel, and input monomers for the further manufacture of such packaging materials. This process can be repeated over and over again!

What do we do to reduce the environmental impact of our packaging?

We are aware of the environmental impact of our packaging, which is why we are constantly looking for new ways to reduce waste and use more energy, material, and ingredients from truly renewable and sustainable sources. In 2018, we reduced our use of paper and plastic by 20% and 50.2%, respectively. In 2020, we released the Family Pack, which uses 87% and 76% less paper and plastic, respectively; this measure has already saved literally tons of packaging!

Although we still have a long way to go technologically before achieving our goal of producing Mana in a closed environmental loop, we do our best to implement solutions that are an investment in a better future. Indeed, the steps towards greater sustainability are gradual and must come from a holistic view of our product and processes. Only this–not ideologies–will help us meet the needs of both nature and humans.

Marek Humpl, Head of Research & Development