The first test of a highly touted technology, avocados are the first commercially available produce item to be treated with the Apeel plant-derived post-harvest solution.
Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocados is supplying Apeel avocados to Costco Wholesale stores in the U.S. Midwest, the company said in a news release.
In addition, the release said Apeel avocados supplied by Temecula, Calif.-based Eco Farms are available at Harps Food Stores, an Associated Wholesale Grocers chain of supermarkets in the Midwest. No estimates were given on anticipated volume or the number of stores where the fruit will be featured.
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Apeel Sciences said the commercialization of the patented technology — which it claims slows down produce spoilage without refrigeration — is an important milestone in the battle against the $2.6 trillion global food waste crisis.
James Rogers, CEO and Founder of Apeel Sciences, said the fruit will be identified with a sticker.
“You’ll be able to look for our mark on that fruit the same way you would look for a Fair Trade label,” he said June 14. “And that will be your indication that if you purchase this fruit you are gong to have a better quality experience and longer shelf life in your home.”
Rogers said he expects a steady expansion in the geographic reach of Apeel avocados for the balance of the year.
“We’re starting with these with these two key retail partners for us, and you can expect expansion, within the avocado category with those retailers,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty aggressive rollout plan.”
Rogers said the technology — a plant-derived solution applied at the packinghouse level that slows the rate of water loss and oxidation — can give double the ripe time compared with avocados not treated with Apeel, which he said will cut food waste and improve consumer satisfaction.
“The ability to use this technology specifically on avocados, where people have this visceral reaction to throwing away the fruit, to be able to deliver quality and a longer ripe time, we think is really going to stand out to the folks that are purchasing this fruit,” Rogers said.
While not disclosing the cost of Apeel treated fruit, Rogers said consumers won’t see higher prices.
“The value we are creating is coming out of the loss reduction,” he said. “We’re going to be able to offer people better fruits and vegetables at what will ultimately become a lower price.”
Beginnings and future expansion
Apeel Sciences was founded in 2012 with the help of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the idea that the technology could help smaller farmers get their produce from the farms to the market without the help of a strong cold chain.
Apeel Sciences is involved in pilot projects with small growers who use Apeel in Nigeria with cassava root and in Kenya with mangoes. Rogers said that, pending regulatory approval, Apeel is set to expand in a big way in those countries, he said.
While Apeel will open new markets in countries without robust refrigeration, Rogers said it also brings value to the U.S. produce supply chain. The retail food sector alone, according to the release, generates eight million tons of waste annually in distribution centers and stores, or $18 billion a year in lost value for retailers.
“You know the cold chain (in the U.S.) is going to get the produce to the grocery store, but our technology is able to maintain that quality and improved freshness even when the fruits are not in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and at (home) on the counter-top level for you and me,” he said. “I’m really excited by this.”
Apeel will eventually expand to other commodities, Rogers said, hinting that Apeel may be looking at applications in the citrus and asparagus categories.
The company also is researching how Apeel could be used for commodities that are packed in the field.
“You can expect us to be expanding into other produce categories, not in the near term, but in the midterm,” he said.