A Bill Gates-backed edible coating now available at Kroger could make avocados last twice as long

Apeel Sciences
  • Kroger, the largest grocery retailer in the US, will soon begin selling avocados that are coated for longer shelf life.
  • The coating was invented by Apeel Sciences, which also produces products for peaches, pears, asparagus, and other crops.
  • Edible coating can help farmers and grocery stores reduce waste by slowing the decay of produce.
  • Apeel Sciences and Kroger’s partnership will start off with 109 stores in Cincinnati, with plans to expand.

The edible coating invented by California-based Apeel Sciences – which doubles an avocado’s shelf life, according to the startup – will soon be carried by Kroger, America’s largest grocery retailer.

Avocados are known for having a short shelf life, lasting about a week at the grocery store before becoming too ripe. Apeel Sciences’ coating, however, can be sprayed onto avocados before they ship to grocers to make them last longer.

Later this month, the Horton Fruit Company, whose facilities are used to treat products with Apeel coating, will begin providing avocados to Kroger in 109 stores across the Cincinnati market, with plans to expand to more cities.

“Apeel is an innovative partner that will help Kroger reduce food waste and redefine the customer experience through first-to-market technology,” Frank Romero, Kroger’s vice president of produce, said in a statement.

Kroger aims to eliminate waste across the company by 2025, and it placed sixth earlier this year in Fortune’s Change the World list for an initiative to end hunger in the communities where it operates.

According to the National Resources Defence Council, Americans throw away more than 400 pounds of food per person each year – an average loss of $US1,800 for a household of four. Nationwide, 8 million tons of food are wasted in the retail sector each year, reaching an annual loss of $US18 billion.

Apeel’s edible coating may help farmers and grocery stores reduce waste by slowing the decay of produce. The coating, made of leftover plant skins and stems, functions as a shield against natural gases like oxygen and ethylene that lead to ripening. The shield no longer works when an Apeel avocado is sliced open, making the product brown just as quickly as a regular avocado.

Farms and food-packing locations have been permitted to buy Apeel’s products since early 2017. In June, the startup began selling its produce at Harps Food Stores and Costco locations in the Midwest. Both Costco and Harps are selling Apeel avocados at the same price as avocados with shorter shelf lives.

Apeel was founded in 2012 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which invested in the startup to lower postharvest food loss in developing countries that did not have access to refrigeration. Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has approved Apeel’s coating as “generally recognised as safe,” which allows the product to be eaten and sold.

The startup has also been approved to coat organic produce with its product. In addition to avocados, Apeel develops products for dozens of other crops, including peaches, pears, lemons, and asparagus.

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