Asda's Produce Technical Manager, Nasir Ahmed, on an exciting new technology...

Every year as a country we waste millions of tonnes of food across all stages of the supply chain, from farmers’ fields, through the distribution and retail network and into our homes.

As a signatory to the WRAP Food Waste Roadmap, Asda has committed to halving food waste by 2030 and we’re always looking at how we can use our position as a retailer to not only reduce our own waste, but also help our suppliers and our customers too.

Many customers will remember that we led the way many years ago with our yellow ‘reduced to clear’ label, which highlights to customers products nearing their use by date and reduced in price. This has the dual benefit of providing great value for customers and reducing the amount of food wasted. We've also reviewed standards around size, shape and cosmetic appearance for many of our main lines, to ensure even more product ends up on shelves.

Now we’re trialling a new technology that we think could make a huge difference in the fight against food waste.

This week in two stores, Chatham and Glasshoughton, we’re testing a new solution by Apeel Sciences on a shipment of our Asda Clementines. Apeel is a plant-derived, water-based coating that gives produce a little extra “peel” that slows the rate of spoilage, and it’s made of materials that exist in the peels, seeds, and pulp of all the fruits and vegetables we already eat.

Excitingly, Apeel can double to triple the shelf life of many types of fresh produce, which reduces food waste from farm to retail shelf to at home. You can see some time-lapse images of Apeel products here.

Apeel Sciences was set up in 2012 and Chief Revenue Officer Gordon Robertson, said: “As a true innovator and sustainability leader, Asda is our first UK retail partner to demonstrate its commitment to fighting the global food waste crisis, starting with Apeel mandarins that stay fresh much longer,”

“This commercial test will be the next step in validating Apeel’s ability to make an impact on reducing food waste in stores and for consumers, with the goal of Apeel produce arriving on shelves at more Asda stores and other retailers across Europe.”

At the moment we’re running just a small trial to test how Apeel performs throughout the entire supply chain and what impact it has on shelf life. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the shipment from the extra peel being applied at our growers’ site in South America to it arriving in the UK and have taken some samples to test how it performs under a variety of different scenarios and conditions. For example, what happens if it’s not kept in the fridge at home, or if the temperature in the store is warmer or cooler than usual?

Increasing shelf life means our customers can enjoy fresher produce for longer, so we’re really excited about the potential of Apeel. It’s the first time that this type of technology has been used in the UK and it’s great to be leading the charge.

Should it be a success, not only could it reduce food waste and allow customers to enjoy fresher produce for longer, there are also some other potential benefits. For instance, because the extra peel protects the fruit from spoilage for longer, there is a lower need for pesticides and other post-harvest treatments.

It could also reduce the amount of packaging that is required to prolong shelf life. For example, while Apeel is not currently available for use on all peels at the moment, we’ve been doing some behind-closed-doors tests on how it performs on cucumbers. The results have been really promising, seeing shelf lives increasing even on cucumbers left unwrapped. We’ve always been really careful to ensure that any plastic packaging reduction does not increase food waste unintentionally, so this could be a win-win solution.

It’s early days of course and there’ll naturally be a lot more testing and trialling needed. One of our mottos at Asda is “We Hate Waste of Any Kind”; this is another example of how we are always looking to put that into practice, with an innovation that helps our customers, our business and our planet, too.