In an effort to protect produce and keep it fresh, many individual items, such as cucumbers, are wrapped in plastic. This packaging is sometimes inconvenient to remove and creates unnecessary plastic waste that is equivalent to three plastic straws, according to Progressive Grocer.
Apeel Sciences’ plant-based coating provides a much smoother experience without adding to the huge amounts of plastic pollution in the environment. And best of all, it actually makes fruits and vegetables last up to three days longer than traditional packaging.
According to the company’s website, Apeel arrived at this remarkable discovery by studying the different kinds of natural peels occurring in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Using plant-derived oils, the company mimics the outer “cuticle” layer found in fruit like oranges, creating a thin, colorless, tasteless film to protect the existing peel.
This film traps moisture inside to keep produce from withering while keeping oxygen out to slow down the processes that age and brown fruits and vegetables.
For consumers, there are several clear benefits. When fruit and vegetables take longer to spoil, buyers will eat more and throw away less — saving money and also getting the nutritional benefits of eating more fresh produce.
Meanwhile, food prep is faster since the coating is completely edible and doesn’t need to be removed, unlike plastic packaging. Plastic bags and coating used for most grocery store produce can also break down into microplastics, adding harmful chemicals to our water, soil, and bodies.
Apeel says this innovation is also great for grocery stores.
“Giving more time to fresh produce unlocks new opportunities for the entire industry, including new packaging and merchandising techniques that can enhance consumer experience and demand,” Lou Perez, senior vice president of innovation at Apeel Sciences, told Progressive Grocer.
Currently, shipping conditions and timelines are defined by how long it takes food to spoil, meaning there may be easier, less expensive, and more eco-friendly options for produce if its shelf life is longer.
For now, Apeel Sciences is testing its coating on English cucumbers and mini cucumbers with the help of produce company Topline Farms. Other produce may become available in the future with similar protections.
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