World's second biggest retailer starts stocking vegetables with innovative plant-based film developed by Apeel
A new form of plant-based protection that aims to solve the longstanding dilemma over the use of plastic packaging to cut the wastage of fresh fruit and vegetables has chalked off a major milestone.
Reports last month confirmed US start up Apeel has partnered with US cucumber grower Houweling's to release "plastic-free cucumbers" which are nonetheless protected from spoilage, whether in transit or on the shopfloor. The technology involves an edible, invisible 'peel' which stops water loss, oxidisation, and shrinkage. The covering also slows down the breakdown of chlorophyll which keeps cucumbers green.
Announcing the partnership, Kevin Doran, Houweling's group president and chief executive, said: "From the first time we reviewed the potential of plastic-free cucumbers, we saw the opportunity and the challenge of bringing avante garde technology to market. From a high-level, the opportunity to lead a disruption in this category and improve our decorated sustainability profile put us on course to where we are today."
According to multiple media reports, the new cucumbers are now available in a select group of Walmart stores in the western United States.
For every 500,000 cases shipped Houweling's and Apeel said they will eliminate the equivalent of 820,000 single use plastic water bottles out of the supply chain and ultimately out of landfill. According to Houweling's research, 62 per cent of it consumers want to reduce its products' single-use plastic
Apeel was set up in 2012 by chief executive James Rodgers with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Apeel's technology utilises the chemical protection already available in fruit and vegetables to create a stronger coating or film, so that a thin-skinned strawberry is given a shelf life somewhat closer to that of a thicker-skinned lime, for example.
Rodgers used the example to explain the chemistry behind the innovation in an article for Wired magazine in 2018. He said: "It's the same molecular building blocks that are being used in both situations. It's just a difference in the arrangement of those molecules on the surface."
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