They are treated with an invisible plant-based coating called Apeel that slows decay.
Starting this week, supermarket chain Kroger will start selling avocados that have been treated with an invisible, odorless coating to prolong their lifespan. This coating is called Apeel and it is a plant-based, edible solution that slows decay. CNN says the treated avocados will be available in 1,100 of Kroger's 2,800 stores across the country, and the chain is also experimenting with treating limes and asparagus in a Cincinnati trial.
Apeel has been in the news for a while. The company was created in 2012 and has received $110 million in funding from investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I wrote about Apeel for TreeHugger last year, citing one Kenyan mango farmer's experience with it. When John Mutio struggled to find a buyer for his fruit in years gone by, much of it would spoil within two weeks; but after coating his mangoes with Apeel, they were stored at room temperature for 25 days.The coating starts as a powder that's mixed with water, then is applied to the surface of the fruit. There it locks in moisture and deters oxygen and ethylene gas from initiating spoilage. It can be used on certified organic fruit even though the coating itself is not organic.
Kroger's decision to expand its Apeel-treated fruits is based on a successful pilot project in 100 Midwest stores last year that found it significantly cut down on food waste. A VP of produce, Frank Romero, said that the product was "proven to extend the life of perishable produce, reducing food waste in transport, in our retail stores and in our customers' homes" (via CNN).
That's what makes Apeel so appealing – the positive effects of its food-waste mitigation go beyond what you may toss in a household compost bin. By extending the lifespan of ordinary fruits and vegetables, it allows for them to be shipped by boat, as opposed to flown or transported in a refrigerated truck. It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the climate crisis; and it could save numerous acres of farmland and billions of gallons of water from going to waste by extension.
The Apeel avocados will be sold at the same price as untreated ones and, as CNN explains, "is testing various marketing programs to determine how customers will know that they are buying something different."