A startup in Santa Barbara, California called Apeel Sciences is taking on toast's most terrible foe—the short life span of harvested avocados. According to Business Insider, most avocados only last for about a week once they're at grocery stores.
Anyone who has bought an avocado knows that moment of perfect ripeness is brief and, at times, elusive. Apeel says it has developed an edible coasting that will double the avocado's shelf life. Producers spray their fruits and vegetables before they ship, and consumers reap the benefits.
Each product has its own spray, and Apeel has developed ones for more than three dozen crops, and that includes not just avocados, but asparagus, peaches, lemons, pears, and nectarines.
Every formula is composed from discarded plant leavings, like pear stems or leftover grape skins or grass clippings, and becomes a defense against these natural gases after it dries.
The longer-lasting foods debuted on Tuesday, June 20, 2018 in Costco and Harps Food Stores. The latter is a regional chain in the Midwest with 87 locations, but Costco's reach is considerably longer. They have 500 locations across all of the country.
It is generally sprayed on during the washing process, before everything is packed up and shipped. The spray works by locking in moisture and protecting produce from oxygen and ethylene, which are the ripening agents for harvested fruit.
Bruised or damaged produce can release higher amounts of ethylene, so if you want to make fruit ripen for some reason, you can put it in a bag with a piece of bruised banana skin to speed the process.
Once you cut through the skin of a coated avocado, the spray shield is negated, and it will begin to ripen as normal.
"Refrigeration has been used to increase produce quality during transportation and storage, but you lose the benefit of refrigeration when a fruit sits on a grocery store shelf or on a kitchen counter," CEO James Rogers told Business Insider. "With our technology, we're able to dramatically reduce the rate that clock is ticking."
Apeel's technology is consider a huge shift in how produce is shipped and processed, and has attracted big investors: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed to the $40 million venture-capital funding the project has accrued.
The product has also been marked as "generally recognized as safe," by the US Food and Drug Administration and the company has received official approval to use the coating on organic produce and still mark it organic. However, avocados at Costco and Harps will be conventionally grown and cost the same as the unsprayed fruit.
They've also grown exponentially since 2017, moving into a 105,000-square-foot facility, and their product has been adopted by six farms in Southern California, Kenya, and Nigeria. These are just a few steps towards the commercial rollout that will put them in farms in Mexico, Peru, and Chile.
The company has other plans for developing agricultural sprays that aid consumers rather than producers, specifically a spray that discourages insects called Invisipeel.
The spray isn't just for people who are fussy about their avocados. It's hope that it will help reduce food waste and save money for retailers who will have less wasted produce to throw out. That's part of what helps to keep the coated avocado price down.
According to Rogers, this is just the first step and they're hoping to introduce coated asparagus next. Sounds delicious.