A research programme by The Co-operative's packaging supplier Paragon to determine the optimum size and placement for holes in fresh-produce packaging could extend the stay-fresh period of some products by up to two days.
Co-operative Food technical expert Iain Ferguson said: "This study has shown there's a whole lot more to making holes than anyone realised.
"Making the time to make the right size hole in the right place will ensure that our prepacked fruit and veg will last for as long as possible, enabling every aspect of our supply chain to work more efficiently and reducing considerably the amount of fresh produce that is ruined."
The size and distribution of holes in fruit and vegetable packaging affects the amount of moisture lost between packing and end use. Too much moisture loss and produce will dry out quickly, losing taste and quality, yet too much left in the pack causes condensation, which promotes spoiling.
Researchers spent two-years using sophisticated formulae to determine the optimum size and location of each hole according to the size of each pack, based on air velocity, diffusion, moisture transfer and the kind of produce contained.
Computer-guided laser etching machines were then used to punch tiny holes into the packaging in a product-specific pattern.
Packs of large vine tomatoes will be the first Co-operative product to use the new technology, which will then be rolled out to stores from next month.
Cutting food waste - Key role for packaging
According to the Government's waste reduction advisory body WRAP, around 55,000 tonnes of tomatoes - worth almost £100m - are thrown away every year in the UK.
WRAP's director of design and waste prevention Richard Swannell said: "We welcome this innovation by The Co-operative. Food waste is a serious issue and, as our research shows, packaging can have a significant role to play in helping to reduce unnecessary food waste."