New food labeling and packaging innovations are changing the way your fruit and vegetables are brought to market.
How much fresh produce do you think is sitting in a grocery store near you? Whether its a small hometown grocer or a flagship Whole Foods, there’s a lot. It all needs food labeling and packaging of some sort. Every day more produce is grown, packaged, and delivered, and while the food itself is a renewable resource, the packaging and labeling are not.To combat waste created by food labels, #Swedish supermarket #ICA will soon brand produce rather than label it with a sticker. Click To Tweet
Packaging and food labeling for produce is expensive and uses materials that can be harmful to the environment. However, this may not be the case for long thanks to new technologies and innovations in the retail food industry.
A new Kind of Food Labeling
I have a learned habit of checking for stickers before I eat any handheld fruit. That’s all thanks to that subtle little sticker that most produce companies use to label their product. From a personal standpoint, there’s almost nothing to this small label. I peel it off, throw it away, and it doesn’t occupy any more of my thoughts.
From an industrial standpoint, mass producing that sticker requires a facility, adhesives, and of course, power. According to Peter Hagg of the Swedish supermarket ICA, those labels need up to 135 miles of plastic a year for avocados alone.
With a growing popular demand for less packaging, ICA and other supermarkets such as Nature & More are testing out a new kind of labeling on certain produce that uses lasers to brand labels into the skin of a fruit or vegetable without harming it. They call it “natural branding“, and it eliminates the sticker.
Natural branding has certain drawbacks, including a high starting cost and the inability to work on certain products like citrus, but there is a return on your investment. The process saves resources, it contributes to lower CO2 emissions, and it requires less power. The cost has a way of balancing itself out.
Getting rid of the sticker is nice, but it isn’t a total solution, nor is it the biggest polluter. For a more comprehensive and renewable solution to the problem, we’ll have to look at packaging as well.
Eco-Friendly Fruit Solutions
Packaging refers to all manner of conveyance for fresh foods, from the crate that it is brought to the store in, to the plastic bag you use to take it home. There are many creative solutions to reduce plastic waste and increase renewability.
A lot of the plastic that we cart our produce around in becomes litter, but with mushroom-based packaging, that wouldn’t be a problem for the environment (though it certainly wouldn’t look good).
For single-serve foods, packaging is just clutter. What if you could eat it? That isn’t a trick question. Many innovative companies are using edible containers for their snacks, making packaging waste and extra dishes a thing of the past.
Of course, these next-gen ideas aren’t the norm, and they likely won’t be for some time. Until then, we’ll have to make do with reusable methods that are as hygienic as possible.
In some places, plastic gloves need to be used to grasp fresh fruit, which is then put into plastic bags. In other places, plastic bags are banned outright. However, the wisest path might be right in the middle of those extremes. Thanks to wonderful collaborative efforts between researchers, companies and nations, solutions like biodegradable packaging and laser branding may help us find that middle ground.