How many untouched bunches of celery have seeped into rot at the back of your fridge? How many expensive pints of strawberries turned moldy almost immediately after you bought them? How many avocados have become unsalvageable because you missed the short window of ripeness?
Food waste is a massive problem. It’s costing our health, our wallets, and our environment. Americans waste an astonishing 150,000 tons of food every single day (about 1 pound of food per person). The UN estimates that food waste costs $2.6 trillion globally per year, and produce is a major culprit.
That’s where Apeel Sciences comes in.
FIGHTING FOOD WASTE WITH FOOD WASTE
Apeel Sciences is a California-based food tech startup with a mission to reduce food waste, and they’ve made some serious headway. They claim to have developed a way to actually double the shelf life of fruits and veggies—even avocados.
According to CNBC, “The company’s technology basically works like this: Plant materials that are left behind on the farm (leaves and peels, for instance) are blended, and then lipid molecules are extracted. The resulting powder is then turned into a liquid that is sprayed on produce; fruits and vegetables can also be dipped into the solution.”
Apeel has created an edible, colorless plant-based powder which fortifies produce skin and slows the rate of water loss and oxidation. As a result, it significantly extends the ripening process. Apeel-treated fruits and veggies are less likely to get mushy in the deep chasms of your fridge, but on a larger scale, this also means that grocery stores will potentially throw away significantly less rotting produce.
Here’s a video posted by Apeel Sciences showing their produce in action.
Working with Del Rey Avocado and Eco Farms, Apeel has launched its first slow-ripe avocados at Costco locations nationwide as well as Harps location in the Midwest.
They are also planning to launch Apeel citrus, with hopes to expand to other fruits and veggies soon. In testing, they have successfully extended the life of dozens of plant foods, including:
- citrus fruits
- stone fruits
Currently, Apeel’s products are only available to suppliers and retailers on the production end, but the company hopes to eventually make its product available direct to consumers as well.
BEYOND FOOD WASTE
While this is potentially a massive win for minimizing food waste and saving money on groceries, this technology also has the capacity to improve the diets of those who live in hard-to-reach areas of the country.
People living in food deserts, where fresh and affordable food is a rarity, tend to be forced to rely on highly processed foods. Apeel’s use in the produce industry could potentially make fresh foods more accessible by extending shelf life.
It’s all about using nature to heal our broken food system.
According the Apeel’s head of marketing Michelle Masek, “Every piece of produce, every fruit, every plant already has a peel. And that peel is already doing what it needs to do to keep the fruit fresh. Instead of making new chemicals in a lab, let’s use the same ingredients that nature gives us time and time again to add a little extra Apeel to produce.”