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September 26, 2019

How an All Natural Coating Could Affect the Transportation of Produce

Introduction
Consumers love to buy the freshest produce available whenever possible. However, if fresh fruits and vegetables are not eaten almost immediately, waste may ensue. The consumption and waste of produce greatly effects the freight industry. With products flying off the shelves, retailers and customers expect fresh produce to arrive at its destination in a timely matter, making the produce industry deadline-driven. According to the USDA, “In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-to-40 percent of the food supply”. With this being said, how much transportation is being used to deliver the excessive amount of produce? Kroger in particular has recently taken action and partnered with Apeel Sciences to decrease the number of avocados, limes, and asparagus wasted.

Apeel Sciences Background
Apeel Sciences is a company that has created a safe coating for fruits and vegetables allowing them to last twice as long. It is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless coating made out of plant-derived materials that exist in different parts of fruit. The coating is completely safe to eat and keeps moisture inside produce to prevent spoiling.

Negative Impacts Within the Industry
With the decrease in food waste, that also means a decrease in transportation and storage of goods. This is a step in the right direction for merchandisers, but may have a negative impact on the transportation industry. Less product to ship means a reduced amount of transportation. Kroger currently is focused on using Apeel’s coating on avocados in 1,100 out of their nearly 2,800 stores and started a pilot program with limes and asparagus in Cincinnati. The implementation of the coating may not be affecting all of Kroger’s stores, but could result in a ripple effect within the industry. The founder and CEO of Apeel, James Rogers, claims “Longer-lasting produce could be shipped by boat instead of flown to a retailer or transported in unrefrigerated trucks to reduce emissions”. This may be one of the downsides for the freight industry, however there are some benefits they may be easily overlooked.

Positive Effects the Industry Experiences
With the shelf life of produce increasing because of Apeel’s coating, transportation companies are able to slow down and handle each shipment with personal care. As mentioned, the freight industry is extremely deadline-driven and has quick turn arounds especially with produce. According to Produce Blue Book, in 2017 the United States produced 116,538 metric tons of avocados. This shows the scale of the production of avocados and gives an insight into the profit margin the freight industry can expect. With products now having a longer shelf life, there is now a lower chance that items will spoil before they reach merchandiser selves. Freight companies are now able to let shipments of produce sit longer in storage without spoiling if they have other priorities at a given time. This is especially helpful in the event of a large storm that may cause unsafe traveling conditions. Another key point to make is according to the Logistics Bureau, “fresh produce typically spends up to half of its shelf life in transit”. With the shelf life doubled thanks to Apeel, freight companies have better control over their quality. As long as the shipper provides quality produce in a reasonable amount of time, they will be given a good reputation within other industries.

Outlook
Looking into the future, we can already see that there will be some large changes within the transportation industry. With the new Apeel coating, there is refrigerated produce that may not need to be kept cold anymore. An article written by Produce Blue Book mentions that after shipping trials “Apeel Asparagus demonstrated nearly 50 percent less water loss in refrigerated and ambient temperatures…”. This will be extremely helpful when shipping produce to countries with limited access to refrigeration. This being said, the use of refrigerated freight may decrease while the use of dry vans could experience growth. Looking forward, these are things to think about within the industry that may have a large impact.