Avocados are a hot— but very perishable— commodity. It feels like they can go from rock-solid to a mushy, overripe mess in the blink of an eye, and no one (especially not Chipotle fans) wants to eat a crappy avocado. We live in an age when anxiety over potential avocado waste has become a legitimate first-world problem.
Well, the days of worrying so intensely about the perfect moment to use an avocado are over, at least for those who shop at the 1,100-plus Kroger stores set to stock avocados covered in a special protective coating. That avo tech was created by California startup Apeel, who created a thin, invisible film that acts as a sort of semi-permeable protective armor that reduces the rate at which avocados lose water and absorb oxygen. The edible, plant-based coating is often composed of the discarded peels and skins of other fruits, turning what would be a wasteful byproduct from winemaking into something useful. In a controlled laboratory setting, Apeel claims this FDA-compliant method can increase the shelf life of avocados by up to 400 percent.
Last year, the company initiated a pilot test of their longevity-boosted avocados at a number of Costco, Kroger, and other outlets. According to the Chicago Tribune, test areas say a 50 percent reduction in avocado waste, while also increasing sales by ten percent. Given that the Tribune cites US Department of Agriculture data stating that supermarkets essentially throw away $15 billion worth of unsold produce each year, such a reduction registers as a big deal.
That encouraged Apeel to aim for a nationwide release that should roll out to that massive number of Kroger stores in the weeks and months ahead. Given that Apeel’s coating needs to be applied shortly after avocados are harvested in order to seal in freshness, Kroger has had to install Apeel’s avocado-treating equipment at its avocado supply spots in Mexico, Peru, Chile and California. Kroger had to foot the bill in this case, but the hope seems to be that the reduction in waste (and related uptick in sales) will prove a worthy return on their investment.
So if you happen to grab an avocado in the near future that feels like it’s stayed fresh for an unusually long time, it’s not some miracle. It’s just wrapped in other plants that are there to help you maintain your piece of mind.