It's All In The Peel

Apeel Sciences

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Apeel Sciences is a company that through material science has invented a plant-derived and edible compound, that when applied to fruit and vegetables forms a thin “peel”. The peel reduces water loss and oxidation, making the food last longer, which contributes to the reduction of food waste and responsible sustainable consumption and healthy food choices for consumers.

Author

Martine Lovas

Martine Lovas

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Jeff Thies

Jeff Thies

Innovation

Apeel Sciences is a company that started in 2012 with the mission to reduce the global food waste by improving the quality and ensure an abundant future for our planet, and they are on the path to successfully do so through their innovative new product. Apeel has created a compound that can be dipped or sprayed on fruit and vegetable to keep them from perishing as quickly. The protective layer reduces water loss and oxidation and is derived from the plant's materials; lipids and glycerolipids, which makes it edible and safe to eat.

The product is manufactured in powder form and shipped to produce packaging houses. They also offer the service of spraying and drying on the produce themselves through their developed applying equipment. Apeel’s innovation has FDA GRAS designation and certified to use on organic produce. Their products are also certified to be sold in Europe which opens a big market opportunity for Apeel to reduce waste across continents.

This organic and natural innovation does not only reduce food waste but are increasing product lifetimes. Apeel is reinventing the product lifecycle all without the consumers having to pay a premium. This helps communities with lower income with the opportunity to afford healthy food options, as well as open possibilities to ship sustainable produce and contribute to the fight in ending world hunger. All while ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.

It's All In The Peel

Inspiration

This all began with CEO and Founder, James Rogers. Rogers was at the time taking his Ph.D. in material science, studying thin-film solar technologies. On his way to the lab one day he was listening to a podcast, and as he was driving through the central valley the podcast started talking about food consumption and waste, explaining that a third to half of all the food we produce for consumption gets thrown away. Rogers was looking around him not understanding why we were throwing away all this food when we were producing such a massive amount.

He started looking into the topic quickly understanding that the issue wasn’t production but perishability, remembering how fast his own fruit and vegetables perished after buying it at the grocery store he realized that this was a huge proglem. Rogers started researching and started asking himself question around how nature solved this problem by itself naturally, and the answer he found was – with a peel! He started experimenting in his basement and came up with a way to extract and convert the protective natural peel of fruit and vegetables into a powder compound that could be applied to produce to act as a protective layer, like the natural peel does. Adding this layer outside of the peel worked as an extra protective layer on the produce to keep them from perishing as quickly.

Like Jessica Vieira, Director of Sustainability, so simply described – “It’s just a little extra peel.“

Overall impact

Vieira explains that the two main causes of spoilage are water loss and oxidation. By measuring the evidence of the introduction of their product, they see that products have increased shelf life extension by up to two to three times what it used to be. With that extra time, they are demonstrating that retailers can reduce the amount of produce that they throw away with around 50 percent. This does not only decrease the amount of spoilage and food that’s thrown away or returned to the store by customers, but it also increases the retailer's profit margins and provide true value to their retailers, which is why they see that the retailers do not need to charge a premium for it.

Although the product has only been in stores for about a year and a half, large sellers like Kroger and Costco are selling the products, and per today Apeel can be found in a few hundred stores – and continuously growing. Apeel is open to the fact that perishability might not be constant and can become longer. Looking at the long-term effects Apeel is working on the cold chain and finding alternatives to refrigeration. By finding alternatives and redesigning the supply chain there could be great opportunities for distributing long-lasting food to third world countries and helping in the global fight of combatting world hunger while providing healthy sustainable food.

Business benefit

Apeel’s disruptive innovation has redefined the food and harvesting industry and opened new possibilities in the supply chain, all within a short year and a half in production. Their innovation, transparency, and love for healthy sustainable food have resulted in Apeel raising a total amount of $110 million dollars as of this date. Even though their products have only been in stores for less than two years, because of their rapid growth Apeel has around 160 employees working around the clock to continue to evolve and scale the innovation. As of today, Apeel’s innovation is used on avocados, lime, and asparagus, and can be found in a few hundred stores across the country. In addition, the company has business entities in Mexico, Peru, and The Netherlands, and disclose that they are expecting products in the market in EU later this year.

Vieira states, “we are always working on evolving and scaling our business while keeping the sustainable lifecycle in mind, and we are taking some thrilling new steps that we are excited about sharing in not too long.”

They are also progressively working on adding the product on different types of fruit and vegetables to continue to grow the company.

Social and environmental benefit

Because Apeel's innovation offers so many great benefits for the retailers, they experience that the retailers are able to sell even their organic certificated produce without charging a premium. This can allow communities that previously were not able, to now buy a healthy profile of food on a regular basis.

Apeel is also committed to continuously asses their product lifecycle and the environmental impact. Their take on this is, that when you are reducing food waste, you are basically avoiding everything it took to make that produce; Avoided production, fertilizer input, water, diesel for transportation. You avoid all the embodied emissions that go from growing, distribution, storing and refrigerating the product. This means that they are contributing to reducing carbon emission, water use, land use, etc. They look at the environmental impact of everything from sourcing feedstocks for the produce, to manufacturing, to distributing, to applying the product on to the produce. Then they subtract the environmental impact from the benefits of the product, and the result is that Apeel is able to capture 90 percent of the environmental benefits of reducing the food waste taking all the negative effects into account. “And we’re continuously looking in the supply chain to see how we can capture the last 10 percent,” Vieira added.

My last question to Vieira is “Do consumers think this is too good to be true and how do you overcome that?”

She explained, “Well, we do not have the longest track record, yet, so we are focusing on bringing the best products to our suppliers and showing transparency in what we do. What the product is made of is in every single bite of fruit and vegetable that you are already eating. We focus on educating our consumers and make them feel safe.”

Apeel Sciences is not just your standard ‘green’ product offering a biodegradable or plastic-free solution. This is a company with an innovation aimed to redefine the whole supply chain, and ensuring that every single step in the product life-cycle is optimized in a way that is environmentally sustainable and beneficial for the community from start to finish.

Interview

Jessica Vieira, Director of Sustainability

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Apeel Sciences

Apeel Sciences

Goleta, California, US

Business Website: www.apeelsciences.com

Year Founded: 2012

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Apeel Sciences is a company that through material science has invented a plant-derived and edible compound, that when applied to fruit and vegetables forms a thin “peel”. The peel reduces water loss and oxidation, making the food last longer, which contributes to the reduction of food waste and responsible sustainable consumption and healthy food choices for consumers.