If you notice that the next avocado that you buy lasts longer than usual, there may be an invisible reason why. Kroger, the country’s largest grocery chain, is now stocking fruit treated with Apeel, an edible, plant-based coating that makes avocados last twice as long as usual; an avocado that would normally be ripe for two days now stays ripe for four.
It’s one way to fight the problem of food waste. Americans throw out around 150,000 tons of food a day; people who eat healthier diets actually waste more than others, since fruits and vegetables quickly go bad. Apeel Sciences, the startup that makes a coating of the same name, realized that adding extra protection to peels would help produce last longer, and started designing coatings derived from food. One ingredient, for example, might be leftover grape seed from a winery. The mix is sold as a powder that growers or distribution centers can spray onto produce. Each type of produce will have a different coating designed to work with the structure of the fruit or vegetable’s specific peel.
Kroger started testing Apeel-coated avocados a year ago in grocery stores in the Midwest, and now is expanding the offering to more than 1,100 stores across the country. (It’s also now running a pilot test of two other types of Apeel produce—limes and asparagus.) The avocados don’t cost more for consumers, but can help supermarkets make more money because the fruit can stay on store shelves longer; the coating helps double the fruit’s overall life span. The companies estimate that millions of avocados will now avoid becoming food waste each year, saving a billion gallons of water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of metric tons. Apeel also sells to Costco and a regional chain called Harp’s Food Stores, and plans to expand to other grocery stores. “We’re seeing consumer interest in fighting food waste continue to rise, and we’re in discussion with just about every supermarket you’d think about, so we’re on the way,” says CEO James Rogers.