Swedish supermarkets replace sticky labels with laser marking

Summary

Food retailers aiming to cut plastic packaging by ditching stickers on fruits and vegetables, instead using hi-tech ‘natural branding’

18Jan.
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The humble fruit sticker may seem an unlikely cause for environmental concern but removing it from produce could create huge savings in plastic, energy and CO2 emissions.

In response to consumer demand for less packaging, Dutch fruit and veg supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA have joined forces to run a trial to replace sticky labels on organic avocados and sweet potatoes with a laser mark.

M&S are also using it on coconuts in the UK.

Dubbed “natural branding”, the technique uses a strong light to remove pigment from the skin of produce. The mark is invisible once skin is removed and doesn’t affect shelf life or eating quality.

“By using natural branding on all the organic avocados we would sell in one year we will save 200km (135 miles) of plastic 30cm wide. It’s small but I think it adds up,” says Peter Hagg, ICA business unit manager.

The laser technology also creates less than 1% of the carbon emissions needed to produce a sticker of similar size.

Stephane Merit, business development manager of the Spanish company behind the technology, Laser Food, says with millions of stickers used on food produce around the world everyday, the technology could make a “significant reduction in the amount of paper, ink, glue” being used as well as the cutting the energy used to produce and transport them.

Ethical Shoppers

The sustainability saving is particularly important for organic shoppers, who now account for almost a fifth of all ICA’s fruit and veg sales, says Hagg. “Organic sales are driven by environmental awareness, like climate change and belief in health benefits. Younger shoppers also choose products depending on the environmental impact of the packaging. And we know that this will be very important in coming years,” he says.

Switching from plastic to cardboard is a bonus, but selling organic produce as loose is even better says Hagg. Yet under EU rules all items need to be marked hence the need for stickers if selling loose.

Read more on The Guardian.

Picture from Pexels.