Stay on Shelf a Bit Longer: Innovative Ways to Keep Fruit and Vegetables Fresh

Elena Vardanian
5 min read

The supply chain disruptions amid pandemic together with on-again, off-again quarantine show us no matter how healthy our diet is, we are all buying fruits and vegetables that end up in the compost at the best of times.

In the U.S. alone, about 30% of all food that is harvested is thrown away, often due to early spoilage. By reducing spoilage during transport and storage, suppliers, farmers, and retailers all ultimately benefit by having more product available to the market. Fruits and veggies' gradual ending doesn't have to start at the beginning and there are companies that know how to extend shelf-life, save producers’ costs and reduce food waste in the most effective way.

Apeel Sciences (California, USA)
California-headquartered Apeel Sciences is on their way to a mission “to make better quality, more sustainable, and longer-lasting produce a reality” with their plant-derived shelf life extension technology for fresh produce that improves quality and reduces food waste. Apeel’s plant-based coating basically is a second fruit skin that slows down oxidation and keeps moisture out, thus extending produce’s natural shelf life by two to three times!

The coating is sold as a powder, which is mixed with water and applied to produce by spray, dip or brush. Is it safe to eat? Yes, because Apeel uses food grade ingredients made from materials that exist in the peels, seeds and pulp of all the fruits and vegetables we already eat (1).

According to Crunchbase, the company’s overall founding amount is over $640 millions. Among Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, DBL Partners, Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Viking Global Investors, PowerPlant Partners, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GIC, and The Rockefeller Foundation.
It’s Fresh! (London, UK)
It's Fresh! company is another provider of freshness solutions. Ethylene is a natural gas produced by fruit that causes ripening; its removal slows down the maturation process. The company offers ethylene removal products, berry pads, and labels to growers, suppliers, and retailers. A filter contains a mix of clay and minerals and is used to absorb ethylene from the atmosphere surrounding fruit. (2)

The endless range of filters from transit sheets for packers to small filters that can be integrated into plastic films and individual fruit packs bought in store “delivering maximum It’s Fresh! performance with minimal operational impact”. (3)
Hazel Technologies (Chicago, USA)
Another food waste tech scene player Hazel Technologies is focused on extending the shelf life of produce during storage. Hazel Technologies’ food-safe technology is a discreet sachet filled with a proprietary material that releases ethylene-inhibiting vapours, thus slowing down the ripening and aging process. The sachet is added to storage crates and boxes, where it can protect as much as 50 pounds of produce at a time (2).

Different crops have entirely different respiration rates and ethylene production levels. As a result, each Hazel product is tailored to the specific crop. Hazel is currently available for avocados, apricots, grapes and melons, among others. (4)

Hazel Technologies, backed by the United States Department for Agriculture, raised $70 million from Asahi Kasei Corporate Venture Capital and 7 other investors in April 2021. (5)
Sufresca (Tel Aviv, Israel)
Israeli Agtech start-up Sufresca is among the few to offer a solution for salad vegetables. Their ‘breathable’ coating made from ultra-thin, edible materials is used to protect cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers, resulting in shelf lives that are up to six months longer.

The coating is tasteless, odorless, and virtually undetectable by sensory evaluation, providing natural appearance and long lasting freshness as if just harvested. (6) It gives hope that war over plastic wrapped cucumbers can be won!
PerfoTec (Woerden, Netherlands)
Thanks to a PerfoTec unique biodegradable film that is naturally permeable to water vapor, all types of fruit and vegetables can now be seafreighted. Combined with PerfoTec’s Laser perforation technology it has the properties to optimize the atmosphere.

According to director Bas Groeneweg, shelf life with PerfoTec C+ Film extends from a few days to over 40%, reducing producers’ costs, CO2 emissions, and food waste in the entire chain. (7)
Produce Mate (Portland, USA)
Not every shelf-life extension tech solution has to target the fresh produce supply chain. Produce Mate is one that can work on your kitchen.

The company produces an antimicrobial kitchen mat. It contains active minerals that fight spoilage-causing bacteria and therefore extend the life of fresh fruit and veg. It can be placed on kitchen counters and in fridges and lasts for two years. (2)

In general, kitchen mats are medical-grade silicone and the company's proprietary blend of antimicrobial minerals. Founder Dagan Kay assures that Produce mate extends your produce shelf life up to 2 extra weeks and saves $300 a year. (8)

The bottom line

When we throw food away, we waste the precious resources it’s taken to grow, package and transport it – and as it rots in landfill, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2. Innovations from edible firms and sachets that slow down the ripening and aging process not only extend shelf-life of the product for a couple of weeks or more save billions of pounds of produce from going to household bins and landfills.