Same Potato, New Package

Earth Fresh

1. No Poverty 2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Earth Fresh offers a light-blocking recyclable packaging for potatoes. This extends the shelf-life of the potatoe by over 2 weeks, resulting in a reduction of food waste.

Author

Hannah Ruuth

Hannah Ruuth

School

University of Guelph

University of Guelph

Professor

Ruben Burga

Ruben Burga

Innovation

Earth Fresh is an industry leader for their continuing success in innovation and creativity in efforts to further develop the company’s manufacturing cycle. The entity’s workforce is focused on a common objective- that fresh produce is a way of life and to adhere to the best standards. Earth Fresh’s primary innovation is the creation of light blocking technology for the packaging template. The two variants of materials include; metalized or black ink for their supplier of packaging products. In-house testing revealed astounding results from integrating advanced technology in efforts to prevent exposure of light to products. Potatoes shelf-life expanded from an average of 1-2 days to 3 weeks- keeping them fresher for a longer duration of time. This led to a cost-effective option for consumers because the improved longevity and quality of the product compared to the industry standards. Earth Fresh initiative is a preventative measure to improve waste management strategies- an impact that is in direct compliance to their purpose.

Earth Fresh replicates the ideal business model for a successful organization by implementing Handy’s philosophy. The organization manifested the idea of implementing sustainability practices into day-to-day operations to ensure the next generations inherit the land in a better condition than today. Earth Fresh addresses their disadvantaged stakeholders through their involvement in non-profit organizations that promote family, health and wellness in the communities.

Inspiration

Earth Fresh aspires to be industry leaders by continuously inventing creative innovations. With the goal of reducing the company’s carbon footprint by ~50% through product innovations such as light-blocking packaging. Earth Fresh unique packaging solution was developed after recognizing the food waste within the potato market. The company was able to source the leading variable of shelf life as exposure to fluorescent lighting. Potatoes need to be protected from light otherwise they will begin to decay within days. When potatoes decay, they turn green and emit a poisonous chemical called solanine. Not only is this chemical dangerous to humans when ingested but it impacts consumer purchasing behavior, resulting in fewer potato purchases. The innovation was inspired by Dempster's bread introduction tin packaging to prolong the shelf life of bread, Earth Fresh contacted Tempo Plastics, the company who worked to develop. Dempster’s packaging to collaborate on the light-blocking technology. Earth Fresh remains passionate about reducing waste in the production process, moving towards plastic free packaging. This is exemplified through their new initiative, which involves University of Guelph students analyzing the best decomposable packaging for the future manufacturing plan. The study sampling all the bags in the production line to determine the most effective materials to produce the ideal packaging material. Overall, Earth Fresh is a company rooted in sustainability- always looking for ways they can reduce their carbon footprint and impact on society.

Overall impact

The overall impact of the sunlight blocking bags created and implemented by Earth Fresh to increase the shelf life of potatoes not only brings massive benefits to society but also can allow businesses to increase profitability. One of the largest benefits to society as stated by Jessica Hughes is how these bags can significantly reduce food waste. Normally, potatoes have a shelf life of 1-2 days but with this innovation this time is expanded to 3 weeks resulting in less food waste. This also limits the chances of eating potatoes that have expired. As stated, Hughes when potatoes expire, they turn green and create an abundance of solanine. Too much solanine not only ruins the taste of the potato but also makes it harmful to consume.

Red potatoes that have expired are harder to identify the level of solanine as the skin can conceal the green texture. By implementing this new technology, the chances of potatoes containing high levels of solanine is extremely reduced as the shelf life is increased. Businesses that can provide potatoes that last longer and have significantly reduced risk of tasting bad and becoming harmful to consume will gain more customers and improve overall profitability. Food markets are extremely competitive and by implementing new technologies such as light resistant bags that can reduce food waste, increase profits and reduce the risk of humans ingesting harmful chemicals justify the startup costs of creating such innovations.

Business benefit

Earth Fresh’s commitment to corporate social responsibility has aided business development. According to Jessica Hughes, “[the light blocking technology] has saved us a lot of turnover in our inventory.” The lower turnover rate in potatoes has reduced the food waste and associated transportation costs. This is reflective of a higher retention rate for the potato crops yield, mitigating costs related to food waste.

In addition, the light blocking technology that Earth Fresh has developed has created a relationship with their consumers that is biased on mutual trust and benefit. Hughes explained to us that, “although you may not get [as many] repeat sales [we] think that if [a customer] has a slightly green potatoes that they might not go back to any potatoes because they think they taste bad”. These consumer relationships last longer and have resulted in more devoted customers to the Earth Fresh brand. Hughes continued that because some potatoes, “do not show signs of turning green until you bite into them” that the light blocking bags lead to a better consumer experience though a better tasting potato. All these factors have helped Earth Fresh create a loyal consumer bias, an invaluable asset to the company, all because they decided to be socially responsible with their production!

Social and environmental benefit

The innovation of the light blocking packaging has impacted both society as well as the environment. The idea of the light blocking packaging was created to ensure the shelf life of potatoes would last longer. After 12 hours of being on the shelf in the store, the harsh fluorescent lights start to turn potatoes green. In order to keep the potatoes fresher for longer, the light blocking technology does not allow any of the light from the store to get in. This innovation has reduced food waste and waste produced from food packaging. The bags are recyclable and easy for the consumer to identity This new technology has been implemented by other potatoes farmers as well. This has created a whole new way to package products. Earth Fresh is aiming to reduce their carbon footprint by 50% after implementing this innovation. By doing so, this will benefit society as a whole. By taking on new innovations that help reduce your impact on the environment helps every single person on the planet. The light blocking technology was created to ensure the potatoes hold their delicious taste throughout its shelf life to make sure the customers are satisfied with the taste.

Interview

Jessica Hughes, Director of Innovation

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Earth Fresh

Burlington, Ontario, CA

Business Website: http://earthfreshfoods.com/

Year Founded: 1963

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Earth Fresh is a Canadian business based in Burlington, Ontario specializing in potatoes, carrots and onion production. Earth Fresh provides healthy fresh foods to people across North America.