The future of retail has arrived. And it is naked
Tracepack - Sep 26th, 15:38
Globally, retailers and other businesses are beginning to recognise the damaging effects plastics have on the environment. Plastic is full of toxic compounds that are adding to an ever-increasing pollution crisis on land, sea, and air because unlike organic matter, plastic can take centuries to degrade.
In the retail industry – particularly in South Africa – plastic bags are still widely circulated among consumers. And while customers are encouraged to reuse them rather than dispose of them, they are still contributing to a pollution problem of galactic proportions. New technology has provided practical solutions that could help phase out or at least dramatically decrease plastic consumption in SA and around the world.
When we buy fruit or veg at a supermarket, we either pick them up in a pre-packed box, which is sealed in a film of plastic, lift them off the shelf in a ready-packed plastic bag, or pick the produce we want off the shelf, tear off a plastic bag and have a shop assistant weigh it so that we can take it to the till to be scanned.
In all of these instances, some form of packaging is necessary, because, in order for the product to be scanned, it needs a barcode – which is generally attached to the packaging. Aside from being bad for the environment, packaged produce is also one of the root causes of food waste. Agricultural products like fruit, veg, and cereals make up 70%. And 25% of wastage occurs at the processing and packaging stage of the value chain. 90% of all that waste ends up in a landfill.
The time has come to throw that packaging away! Food grade ink and food laser engraving are solutions that have made package-free produce a reality, from distribution, all the way to the shelf. And they don’t only do their bit for saving the environment, they also cut down on costs, wastage and shrinkage, both at supplier and store level.
Dubbed “natural branding”, the technique uses a strong light to remove pigment from the skin of produce. The mark is invisible once the skin is removed and doesn’t affect shelf life or eating quality.
The future of retail has arrived. And it is naked.
Globally, a shift is happening towards unadulterated food that’s unspoiled by plastic, unaffected by food fraud and less likely to be wasted – as consumers no longer have to buy more than they need. And it’s not just limited to fruit and vegetables.
Engraving and edible ink can be used on bread, cheeses and more, to maintain quality control and cut down on waste. Right now, selected South African retailers are trying out naked produce solutions, and your local store could be next.
Mitas Corporation has partnered with Gerber Fresh and Allways Fresh SA to make this shift a reality for a well known retailer, who is running trials in a few of their stores by supplying CO2 lasers, which can easily be integrated into their current supply chain to mark directly onto the fruit and vegetables, saving on primary packaging and can be unique for each product.
Click here for more information on Mitas
A fruit sticker may seem an unlikely cause for environmental concern but removing it from food products could create huge savings in plastic, energy and CO2 emissions and with the move to item-level serialization on fruit and vegetables, allowing identification of each product unit instead of the packaging, is a powerful tool to fight counterfeiting and gives the consumer the ability to not only track the entire life cycle of the product through the supply chain but also allows product identification and a unique consumer engagement platform, thus enhancing the consumer experience.
The drive toward naked produce is gaining momentum, with producers under immense pressure to respond to the growing calls to reduce plastic waste. It’s no small wonder, considering that from 1950 to 2015, cumulative plastic production reached a whopping 7.8 billion metric tons – giving us more than one ton of plastic per person on earth.
According to World Health Organisation statistics, an estimated 600 million people in the world fall ill because of contaminated food. A shocking 420 000 of these cases result in deaths. The basis of most regulation and standard for food is quality and record-keeping or the traceability thereof, with the new regulation being enforced this does not only apply to the food premises but the environment throughout the entire supply chain of these products and requires a maintained traceability system and recall procedure is in place.
With the new regulation R638 being implemented there is an increase in supply chain transparency, accountability, and security. One key to achieving gains in all three areas lies in the ability to trace the source of foods and their ingredients, from farm to fork.