Laser loving: Dutch and Swedes team up for plastic-free laser label trial
Working alongside Swedish supermarket chain ICU, Dutch organic fruit and vegetable supplier, Nature & More, is going to be trialling natural branding on avocados and sweet potatoes in an effort to reduce use of plastic and carbon emissions.
The method of using a laser beam to mark produce is free from additives, has no effect on shelf life or taste and is contact free.
International relations manager at Spanish firm Laser Foods, Stephane Merit, told us “What we do is a very superficial depigmentation of the fruit skin that will not cause any decay nor micro bacteriological contamination. We make logos according to the nature of each product to mark. Logos can vary from simple vector drawings that can be marked in a fraction of a second, to more complex logos that transmit more information and may require some more time to mark.
However, whatever the product or the logo, we always prepare them so that we get the best contrast possible, at the highest speed possible and without affecting the shelf life of the product.”
Environmentally friendly labels
The two companies say this method of labelling could eliminate the excessive use of plastic.
Project manager at ICA, Peter Hägg, said: “It is positive that we now can use new technology to get a better mark on fruits and vegetables from an environmental perspective. Organic products also need to be distinguished from ordinary products. Since each product is marked, there is no need for stickers or plastic film around the product. We estimate that we save over 200 kilometers of plastic film yearly, just on the organic avocados alone through this effort. The overall effect is significant.”
Using laser labels also creates less than 1% of the carbon emissions that are needed to create plastic labels of the same size.
According to Nature & More, the CO2 measurement of 725,380 avocados being packaged is the equivalent to a car driving around the world nearly one and a half times.
Using natural branding also solves the problem of plastic stickers falling off the products, as well as eradicating the need for glue, paper and ink.
Paul Hendriks, packaging expert at Nature & More said: “The most sustainable way to pack is not to pack. I have been saying that for years, but it has been difficult to bring about in the supermarket. With Natural Branding comes a logical option. We are very glad that ICA, as a front-runner, is taking this sustainable road with us. We think green consumers will be delighted, because research shows again and again that they disapprove of plastic packaging.”
Expansion on the horizon
Nature & More says if the trial period with ICU goes well then it hopes to adopt the method for labelling more of its organic produce.
In Spain, Carrefour supermarkets use laser marks, provided by Laser Food, to put a stop to people switching price labels between products, and French fruit supplier, Domaine des Clairettes, is using the technology to put its logo on their high end peaches and nectarines.
Merit said: “We have acquired a know-how and expertise that allows us to mark virtually any kind of fruit or vegetable in a permanent way without affecting the integrity of the product. Produce marked with Laser Mark are sold in various retailers in Europe and also in traditional stores."
“Furthermore, our technology was developed with the support of the EU within the Eco Innovation program and, in 2013, a specific law was voted by the European Commission to regulate the use of this technology.
“Recently, Laser Food has signed a cooperation agreement with the US company JBT (Jhn Bean Technlogies) who is in charge of building our machines. Also, JBT puts their international network of companies, factories, commercial offices at our disposition so that Laser Food can expand worldwide, except in the USA. This partnership means an important milestone in our history.”