Asda pilots plastic-free innovation in fight against food waste
Asda is trialling an innovative new material which could help mitigate the need for plastic food packaging, without leading to an increase in food waste.
Developed by startup Apeel Sciences, the material consists of plant-based proteins and cellulose, mixed with water. It is designed to be sprayed onto fruit and vegetables, creating an extra layer that slows down the biological processes which cause food to spoil.
Trials on the material, called Apeel, found that it can double or triple the shelf life of numerous fruits and vegetables with natural peels, including citrus fruits.
Asda will use the material at its Chatham and Glasshoughton stores this week for a shipment of clementines, to assess its performance in stores and in different conditions across the supply chains.
This trial will mark the first time that Apeel will be applied to consumer-facing products in the EU. The material is already being used by Kroger, Harps and Costco in the US.
“As a true innovator and sustainability leader, Asda is our first UK retail partner to demonstrate its commitment to fighting the global food waste crisis, starting with Apeel mandarins that stay fresh much longer,” Apeel Sciences’ chief revenue officer Gordon Robertson said.
“We’re always looking at how we can reduce food waste right the way through our supply chain and into our customers’ homes,” Asda’s technical manager for produce Nasir Ahmed said.
“Increasing shelf life means our customers can enjoy fresher produce for longer, so we’re really excited about the potential of Apeel and I’m delighted Asda is part of this trial.”
Asda told edie that the initial one-week test of Apeel will be used to measure what impact it has on shelf life, despite storage conditions throughout the supply chain, in stores and at customer homes.
At the same time, the supermarket will be conducting some behind-the-scenes testing to measure the impact of using Apeel on cucumbers. While the material is not currently commercially available for cucumbers at present, Asda said the early results have been “really promising”. Cucumbers notably last for three days without plastic wrapping or 14 days with, according to catering giant BaxterStorey.
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How do you need to treat, e.g. wash the food before human consumption?
I can quite understand that a cucumber lasts longer if wrapped. I would like to see it wrapped in compostable film so the wrap can actually be recovered, if possible, through composting. What I really cannot understand is how so much other fresh foods are wrapped when clearly not needed. M&S coconuts take the biscuit !