Spray coating could make avocados more ‘Apeel-ing’ longer

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Spray coating could make avocados more ‘Apeel-ing’ longer

06/21/2018

Buttery, rich-tasting avocados are prized by health enthusiasts, gourmets and foodies alike, but unfortunately they have a short shelf life. Notorious for going bad quickly and browning, avocados often have only about a week from the time they reach a supermarket display to the time they get too ripe.

James Rogers, founder of Apeel Sciences, Santa Barbara, Calif., developed the technology to solve this produce issue. He invented an edible coating that could nearly double an avocado's shelf life. Basically, the polymer technology uses plant-based materials (specifically, lipids and glycerolipids), like the peels of fruits and vegetables, to create the invisible, thin, tasteless coating.

So far, the coating has an FDA designation of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). Apeel produces it first in the form of a powder that’s mixed with water to create a solution into which the fruits and vegetables are dipped or sprayed. The resulting protective seal is said to inhibit the rate of water loss and slows the oxidation process the company explains on its website, thereby extending the shelf life of treated fruits and vegetables by weeks.

The coating also may help cut food waste and could assist retailers in the competitive grocery business by reducing supply costs.

A food supplier can also spray the coating on produce prior to shipment to slow the decaying process, the company explains. Apeel Sciences has developed such plant-derived coatings for more than three dozen crops, including asparagus, peaches, lemons, pears and nectarines. Because the coating materials exist in all fruits and vegetables, they can be made from any kind of fruit or vegetable, according to Apeel’s website.

“It means you're throwing out less produce and it means higher quality produce in your refrigerator," he was quoted as saying in a cnbc.com article. "We're slowing down the rate the clock is ticking. And by doing that, you have more of an opportunity to enjoy the food in your home, and you're going to be throwing away a lot less of it." 

On June 19, Apeel debuted longer-lasting avocados at Costco and Harps Food Stores locations throughout the Midwest, marking the premiere of the startup’s produce at retail (Harps Food Stores, a regional grocery chain, has 87 locations. Larger Costco has more than 500 wholesale locations across 44 states and Puerto Rico). Apeel, which is backed by Bill Gates, Andreessen Horowitz and others, says it plans on expanding to other retailers and regions soon.