Asda rolls out plastic-free free food protection technology in bid to cut food waste

In 2021, food poverty impacted approximately 7% of the UK population, including 12% of children. 

The supermarket is set to stock citrus fruits and avocados coated in the innovative material, produced by Apeel Sciences, in the coming weeks. The material is made using the proteins and cellulose found in fruit and vegetable seeds, peels and pulps, mixed with water.

 Apeel Sciences’ material is sprayed onto produce and acts as a barrier, keeping moisture in and oxygen out. This extends the shelf life of the produce without the need for packaging. Apeel Sciences states on its website that it only uses food-grade ingredients in the production of the innovative material, meaning it is safe to eat. It has been approved for produce in the US and by the European Commission.

Asda believes its partnership with Apeel Sciences marks the first time that fruit and vegetables coated in the material will be available commercially at this scale. The supermarket first trialled the innovation on clementines sold at two of its stores in 2019.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the shelf life of our products and make it easier for our customers to make more sustainable food choices whilst making their money go further,” said Asda’s senior director Dominic Edwards.

“We are really excited to be working with Apeel – bringing the great work they’ve been doing globally, to our UK customers. During this programme, we will be learning more about the benefits of longer-lasting produce for our customers, and we are looking forward to seeing what further developments this could lead to in the future.”

Asda has notably committed to removing three billion pieces of single-use plastic packaging from its own-brand products by 2025, against a 2018 baseline. This commitment ties in with a pledge to ensure all own-brand packaging is fully recyclable by 2025.

On food waste, Asda already has a zero-waste-to-landfill policy and its headline commitment is to at least halve food waste by 2030, also against a 2018 baseline. Many large businesses in the UK are working to halve food waste by 2030, in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3.

Cutting supermarket waste

Supermarkets have been under pressure to do more to reduce food waste this week following a report from charity network Xcess, which found that at least 200,000 tonnes of own-label supermarket food that would be fit for human consumption went to animal feed and energy-from-waste in 2021.

Separately, WRAP has published the results of research it conducted into whether plastic packaging – often touted as a means to extend the shelf life of fresh produce – could actually be prompting consumers to waste food at home.

The study covered bananas, apples, broccoli, cucumber and potatoes. It found that selling these items loose reduced waste for two reasons – the customers would only buy what they needed, and would not feel they needed to throw away edible food due to the presence of best before dates on packaging.

“We have demystified the relationship between wasted food, plastic packaging, date labels and food storage,” said WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover.

“While packaging is important and often carries out a critical role to protect food, we have proven that plastic packaging doesn’t necessarily prolong the life of uncut fresh produce. It can in fact increase food waste in this case.”

Sarah George


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