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Tesco etches product information onto avocado skin and trials cardboard trays

Tesco plans to save nearly a million stickers and up to 25 million plastic trays in its avocado product lines by laser etching product information directly onto the fruit and trialling a recyclable cardboard container.

Barcode stickers will be removed from Tesco’s loose, extra-large avocados. Instead, Westfalia Fruit’s technology will remove a small section of the top layer of avocado skin, with a computer programme directing high-powered lasers to etch information (e.g. fruit size or variety) directly onto the fruit in a third of a second.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of our products, and cut down on plastic waste in the home through changes to our packaging,” said Lisa Gilbey, avocado buyer at Tesco. “We’re really excited to hear customer feedback on our new laser-etched avocados, avoiding the need for a barcode sticker that can easily be forgotten and left on when recycling through household food waste.”

Apparently, Westfalia Fruit has conducted ‘extensive’ trials to ensure that laser etching does not impact the quality, shelf life, or taste of the avocados.

General manager Graham Isaac commented: “Westfalia Fruit continually seeks ways to improve our environmental performance and operate in a responsible manner, by focusing on priorities such as reducing and wherever possible, removing plastic from our packaging to contribute to solving the plastic waste challenge.

“We are confident that, with a clear focus and united effort as an industry, we will be able to significantly reduce our waste, use natural resources responsibly and protect the environment and biodiversity for all our futures.”

Tesco will simultaneously implement a cardboard container into two of its most popular avocado lines, aiming to simplify recycling for consumers. If the move is rolled out across all Tesco stores, it is expected to save over 20 million plastic trays from the twin-pack avocado range alone, and up to 25 million across the pre-packed range.

Around 270 Tesco stores in south-east England will conduct the trials. If consumer feedback is positive, the changes are set to be rolled out across its stores.

Almost 70 million avocados are sold at Tesco stores every year, the retailer reports, with demand for the fruit said to have increased by 15% in the last year.

Late last year, Tesco told The Grocer that the UK government should ban fruit and vegetable packaging to level the playing field between marketing competitors in the fight against waste. However, other retailers were cautious about selling fresh produce loose, fearing a negative impact on product quality and consumer uptake.

In other news, Gamma Supplies Ltd has unveiled a certified paper-based, home-compostable, and biodegradable label for direct contact with fresh produce like avocados. Reportedly, it breaks down at the same rate as food skins without leaving harmful toxins in the compost.