Everyone knows the feeling of disappointment of purchasing your favorite produce, only to find it spoiled before you get to it. And while we have the best of intentions, the short shelf- life of fruits and vegetables usually gets the better of us. The result? Food waste, and lots of it.
Even though the world's food production is at an all-time high, our wastage is too. Despite our best refrigeration efforts, spoilage is still dominating our resources, with an estimated 2.6 trillion dollars of food waste per year. On top of that, roughly a billion people aren't getting enough to eat. But, the team at Apeel has a new plan of action: To give fruits and vegetables a 'second skin' to prolong their shelf-life and reduce food waste.
Apeel's 'Second Skin' for Produce
When it comes to spoilage, there are two main culprits: Chemical oxidation and water loss. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, it immediately begins the process of spoilage. Various factors such as heat, humidity, and pests can speed up the process. But regardless of the circumstances, the shelf-life of produce is notoriously short, beginning with the picking process.
It's this short window of time from farm to table that inspired Apeel Sciences. Because the causes of spoilage and food waste are understood, combating it is just a matter of delaying a natural process. To do so, a specialized protective spray coats the produce to protect it from the natural elements.
Sound familiar? The process of spraying chemicals and pesticides has long been used to elongate the ripened stage of fruits and vegetables. With Apeel, the process is different. Instead of using artificial products and sprays, Apeel takes the natural route. Their self-proclaimed 'second skin' is really just a water-based coating that is completely odorless, tasteless, and safe for human consumption.
Apeel's 'second skin' can keep produce fresh for twice as long without refrigeration
Apeel's FDA-sanctioned second skin is composed of fatty acids and organic compounds made from pulp, seeds, and peels from other fruits and vegetables. Its all-natural ingredients are effective yet durable, with the potential to keep food fresh for twice as long. Plus, there's no need for refrigeration to keep food unspoiled and safe for consumption with this second skin.
Breaking Up With the Cold Chain
Our grocery stores are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Blueberries from Spain, avocados from Mexico, bananas from Guatemala... But what do they all have in common? The use of the cold chain system. This system ensures that produce is refrigerated throughout its transportation process. With this cold environment, the ripening stage is put off, preserving the shelf-life for longer than it would be in nature.
In America, the cold chain system is the norm. We're used to having access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. We're encouraged to buy pre-made salad mixes and freshly cut fruit because we can. We're fortunate enough to reap the benefits of the cold chain system, even though we still end up wasting roughly 30 to 40 percent of our food here in the United States.
But for countries that don't have the resources for a cold chain system, the stakes are higher. Take Sub-Saharan Africa, for example. With extreme heat and a lack of water, crops are already difficult to sustain. Then, once they're harvested, the lack of refrigeration can cause a crop loss of an estimated 90 percent, according to Michelle Masak, head of marketing at Apeel.
The same goes for many other parts of the world. We are fortunate in America to have access to commodities like the cold chain, but other areas of the world are suffering huge losses at the hands of food waste. In India, a large percentage of profit comes from their yield of milk, fruits, and vegetables. They are considered the leading producers of these goods, yet 20 percent of the production results in waste. That's roughly 10 billion dollars' worth thrown down the drain, due to a lack of refrigeration.
Apeel could significantly reduce food waste in areas where refrigeration isn't possible
Modern-day food demand relies on the cold chain. As production levels and populations are on the rise, it's increasingly important that food waste is kept at a minimum. But for countries like India, the cost is just too high. The more severe the weather conditions, the higher the cost and energy used. Thus, only 4 percent of all of India's production is exposed to the cold chain. The other 96 percent are delivered locally and eaten quickly before they reach spoilage.
An Accessible Option for Reducing Food Waste
While we typically rely on the cold chain to keep up with our produce demands, it isn't the only way around spoilage. Thanks to Apeel's innovative second skin technology, elongating the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables is accessible to all. Whether or not people have access to refrigeration will no longer determine the success of a crop if Apeel's second skin goes viral.
As of right now, the second skin is being put to good use on produce from select companies. Kroger, Costco, and Harps Food Stores currently boast a selection of second skin avocados for purchase. Apeel's treatment has already been used on over 8 million avocados, with great results. While the formulation is not yet available on commercial produce, it won't be long before strawberries, apples, bananas and more will be treated with this second skin concoction.
The success of the second skin technology has the potential to change the future of produce for good. Not only would it create greater opportunities for places without access to refrigeration, but it would also save a significant amount of energy. This all-natural solution may serve as an additional main player in the movement towards a more sustainable future; A much-welcomed one at that.