By the time produce products reach a grocery store, they have traveled an average of 1,500 miles, which means that they have already started to oxidize and ripen. This usually leads to a shorter shelf life for produce and contributes to the $2.6 trillion wasted per year on food spoilage. California-based food technology company, Apeel Sciences, may have found a solution to this problem with a new edible coating that can be applied to the outer layer (the skin) of produce products to create an invisible protective film that can extend the life of produce by up to three times.
According to the company, their protective film naturally reinforces produce peels and reduces the rate of oxidation and water loss in such products, which is the primary cause of food spoilage. This technology creates an optimal microclimate that contains the moisture inside of each piece of produce while keeping oxygen out, which provides a unique post-harvest solution for fresh food suppliers. Apeel also claims that this solution reduces the need for refrigeration, controlled atmospheres or preservatives when transporting produce products. In addition, these Apeel coatings are plant-derived, meaning that they are natural and safe to eat.
In order to make Apeel coatings, the company utilizes unharvested plant materials (such as seeds, leaves, pulp and peels), blends them together and extracts lipid molecules from the mixture. The extracted lipid powder is then converted into a liquid that is placed directly on the outer layer of produce products. According to Apeel, the protective coating is also allergen free because it is made from naturally occurring fats that are present in all fruits and vegetables. Although the coating is made from fat, it contributes a minimal amount of fat to the overall fruit or vegetable– less than one calorie for an entire day’s worth of eating produce. Additionally, Apeel’s produce coating is OMRI Listed, meaning that it is safe to use on USDA Certified Organic Produce.
Currently, the company is using their innovative technology on avocados. They have already partnered with Costco outlets nationwide and Harps Food Stores in the Midwest to sell their long-lasting avocados. However, Apeel technology has proven to be effective on over a dozen types of fruits and vegetables such as apples, artichokes, asparagus, bananas and bell peppers.
According to the USDA, food waste is estimated to affect 30-40 percent of the US food supply. This massive amount of food waste resulted in 133 billion pounds and $161 billion in food waste in 2010. This food loss not only affects food suppliers and consumers, it also wastes the amount of land, water, labor and energy put into producing such foods.
In addition to saving money on food waste, fresh food manufacturers can market their Apeel products as sustainable alternatives to traditionally produced fruits and vegetables. According to a Nielsen global online study, 75 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainable food offerings. This means that food companies can implement a reasonable price hike on their sustainable produce products in order to invest in Apeel’s technology.