Since food became produced at scale, consumers across the world have placed an immense amount of trust in farmers and their local supermarkets. Not only are they looking for quality foods, but they are also expecting that any products they buy will be safe to consume. While this is true most of the time due to pesticides, sanitation, and other advanced technologies, retailers can’t always ensure food safety with rudimentary practices like Best if Used By/Before. This system is a standardized practice around the globe, but surprisingly offers no validation of food safety.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, this dating system is supposed to provide consumers and retailers with guidelines about the quality of a product. The dates don’t convey food safety and people handling or consuming this food should use other practices for deciding if it’s safe to eat. Considering the time it takes food to be placed on a shelf or sold from a vendor, a better system must be utilized.
Vitsab International, a Swedish research and development company has produced a reliable yet straightforward solution to this problem with its Freshtag® Catering formulation. Traditionally, the safety of food items was tracked by data loggers that gathered information and presented it in a graph once connected to a computer. However, this process is too complicated and time-consuming for average consumers and food distributors. This is why Vitsab spent the last five years simplifying this complex process into a simple visual cue to signal freshness.
Freshtag® labels indicate safety and quality by using ‘stoplight technology’ that almost all individuals are familiar with. Once the label is activated by pressing a small circle, it will turn green to show its status. As food travels through different hands, the Freshtag® will change to yellow or red if temperature abuse has occurred. The red shows clients that the food is no longer safe to consume because it hasn’t been handled properly. This real-time technology allows clients to be much more informed about the safety of their food and can protect themselves and their consumers from illnesses that often result in lost profits.
When Vistab was founded in 1990, these Time Temperature Indicator (TTI) labels were first called Checkpoint, but after several in-depth focus groups with restaurant owners, chefs, market executives, and consumers, Freshtag® was the name that connected most deeply. Participants felt the name communicated quality and safety, which is exactly what the company was aiming for.
In the following years after releasing Freshtag®, Vitsab was incredibly successful with seafood retailers. They helped organizations in Maine find a temperature monitoring device so they could be compliant with a newly enforced FDA regulation. This partnership resulted in Vitsab’s technology being accepted by the FDA for temperature monitoring as a critical control point within a hazard and critical control plan for regulation around reduced oxygen packaging for seafood.
Since the FDA is a respected body within food safety regulation, Vitsab began attracting many more clients once their technology had been proven. However, the company ran into a new problem while working with multi-generational seafood companies. These owners were confused by the overly technical language of Freshtag®, which was understandable as scientists had developed the product. Vitsab team members like President Jeff Desrosiers were able to fix this issue by writing a HACCP or a plan for managing how the food will be protected throughout its journey to consumers’ plates. Vitsab gave this information to each client for free although it’s often very expensive for companies to complete.
Vitsab’s decisions within the first year allowed them to reach one million units in sales and develop a Freshtag® that was tailored to different temperature profiles for various foods. The company did this for oysters and has since done it with many others. Vitsab’s Shell Safe Shipping product then became its second offering and allowed the team to expand its mission outside of seafood and B2B relations.
Another accomplishment Vitsab is grateful for was developing a new formulation of Freshtag® catering labels for airlines that comply with European food safety regulators. This system was widely successful and was eventually utilized for e-commerce retail once the COVID-19 pandemic changed how business could be done. Vitsab was an essential partner for businesses hoping to provide consumers with food safety validation, but was also vital for coaching organizations on how to shift into e-commerce retail channels. This type of creative thinking enabled Vitsab to win the IAFP Food Safety Innovation Award in 2023.
Besides helping businesses maximize profit and customer satisfaction, Freshtag® is reducing food waste that eventually contributes to carbon emissions and health problems for consumers. A passion to accelerate this vision is what drives the Vitsab team to commit themselves to innovation and safety each day.
"I met Dr. Peter Rennow of Vitsab and I loved what he was doing, especially because I’m always challenging my daughters to think about their legacy and how they can leave a positive impact on the world,” says President Jeff Desrosiers, “So when I discovered Vitsab and Freshtag® technology, I realized that it could reduce illnesses, help with health and wellbeing, and reduce carbon emissions from food waste that are still safe to consume. Those were all things that motivated me to get involved in the project and quite frankly, it's been a blast. My work doesn’t feel hard to do because it’s fulfilling to work on something that will help everyone feel like it’s safer to start living life again post Covid, since they have a Freshtag® on their foods.”
Name: Jeff Desrosiers
Email: [email protected]