Laser branding of fruit and vegetables on the rise

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Laser branding of fruit and vegetables on the rise

Organic wholesaler Eosta in Waddinxveen is labelling more and more fruits and vegetables using a laser. Others are also discovering this sustainable labelling method. Not only will this save tons of waste, there are more advantages to laser branding.

Eosta from Waddinxveen was the first to start using this technology, called natural branding. Michaël Wilde of Eosta: “We have been delivering ‘natural branded’ products to various supermarkets in Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands (Hoogvliet and Albert Heijn) for six months now. These products include courgettes, squash, sweet potatoes, avocados, ginger, mangoes and cucumbers.”

Less waste

He continues: “For one customer – ICA in Sweden – we calculated how much plastic we are saving. This is 750,000 items of packaging a year! That’s enough foil to wrap around the entire globe – twice!” The Hoogvliet supermarket also calculated how much plastic they will be saving by applying natural branding to 85,000 organic avocados and 20,000 pieces of organic ginger. “That’s more than 100,000 a year. As an innovative company, we consider this to be very important. An innovative invention that will allow us to achieve considerable savings on packaging”, says Ed van Venrooij of Hoogvliet. Nevertheless, plastic also has its advantages. They recently conducted a test at Hoogvliet supermarkets: sweet peppers packaged in plastic remained in good condition for four to five days longer than unwrapped sweet peppers. “We had to discard 17% fewer sweet peppers. That is also worth something”, says Van Venrooij.

Higher inventory turnover

According to Michaël Wilde of Eosta, not using plastic foil has another advantage: “Various studies – including one conducted by Wageningen Research University – revealed that consumers are more inclined to buy organic produce if it is unpackaged. This means a higher turnover rate, and therefore eliminates the problem of perishability. Additionally, 70 to 80% of all organic products are packaged. This is not so much to extend their shelf life, but to make the distinction between organic and non-organic products. Only a few products are packaged in plastic with a view to extending shelf life or to keep small fruits together, like blueberries, cherry tomatoes and grapes.”

Technology

The technology works as follows: using the low-energetic carbon dioxide laser, the outer layer of the peel or skin is heated locally. This causes the pigment to evaporate. According to Eosta this process is extremely superficial and has no impact on the flavour, aroma or perishability. Laser-branded peel or skin is perfectly edible. The method is suitable for all sorts of fruit and vegetables, but not for oranges, mandarin oranges, lemons and pomegranates due to the self-restorative property of the peel. After a few days, the markings would therefore no longer be visible on these fruits.

Other businesses

Besides Eosta, wholesalers in the UK and Spain have also started laser branding. In the Netherlands, the Cool Port Packing Rotterdam (CPPR) packaging company plans to start using this technology in the last quarter of 2017. Laser branding devices can be used to burn a logo, text or message into the peel of the relevant fruit or vegetable. The thickness of the peel is of no consequence. Up until now, the laser has been tested on ginger, avocado, citrus fruits, melons and pumpkins. According to CPPR the method is environmentally-friendly, safe and EU-approved.

Source: NOS/Eosta/CPPR. Photo and video: Eosta.

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