British supermarket Asda is testing out a brand new technology this week, that it claims could “drastically reduce” the amount of food waste generated along the food supply chain.
The idea is to coat fresh fruit and vegetables in a plant-derived, water-based coating that essentially acts like an extra layer of peel, according to the supermarket.
The coating then slows down the rate at which fresh produce rots — and could even up to triple the shelf life of many types of fruit and vegetables, according to its creators Apeel Sciences.
And the coating is made of materials that already exist in the peels, seeds, and pulp of the fruits and vegetables we already eat, Apeel Sciences adds.
It’s being trialled this week in two stores — Chatham in Kent, and Glasshoughton in Yorkshire — on a shipment of clementines.
While it’s the first time it’s been tested in Britain — after being granted approval for use by the EU Commission in June — the Independent reports that the technology is already in use across the US, in stores like Costco, Kroger, and Harps and on produce including apples, asparagus, limes, and lemons.
The trial will test how the coating performs along the supply chain, as well as the impact it has on shelf life of fresh produce.
The statistics around food waste — both in the UK and globally — are astonishing.
Currently, food waste is costing the UK about £20 billion every year. Meanwhile around the world, about a third of all food produced for human consumption — around 1.3 billion tonnes — is going to waste, while at the same time 821 million people are going hungry.
As well as hopefully helping cut down of food waste, Apeel Sciences says that the coating technology could also help with other global issues too.
It could potentially help reduce plastic packaging, for example. The coating is apparently being tested on cucumbers — which almost always currently come in plastic wrapping — at the moment, and Apeel Sciences reports that the results are “really promising.”
Meanwhile, adds Apeel, the extra peel protecting the fruit from spoiling for longer could also cut the need for pesticides and other post-harvest treatments.
Gordon Robertson, chief revenue officer at Apeel Sciences, said: “This commercial test will be the next step in validating Apeel’s ability to make an impact on reducing food waste in stores and for consumers, with the goal of Apeel produce arriving on shelves at more Asda stores and other retailers across Europe.”
It’s been almost exactly a year since all of the UK’s major supermarkets pledged to halve food waste from farm to fork by 2030 — in line with the UN Global Goal 2 to achieve zero hunger.
Across the UK, 90 retailers, manufacturers, producers, hospitality, and restaurant chains signed up to the efforts, all part of a waste reduction campaign by the government body Wrap.
It was described at the time as a “transformational” moment in the fight against waste. The guidelines for businesses also included recommendations like ditching “best before” dates on fresh food; donating more surplus food to food banks and charities; and launching more initiatives to use up the so-called “ugly” or “wonky” produce that can often be otherwise wasted.