Edible ‘skins’ for extending shelf life get major boost

Scientists at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) based in Mohali, India, have developed non-toxic, edible coating materials to improve shelf life of fruits & vegetables based on wheat straw hemicellulosic polysaccharide (WP) and stearic acid derivatized oat bran polysaccharide (SAOP) that promise to overcome the problems of highly perishable produce going bad before reaching the consumer – currently running at 25-30 percent in that country .

The team at NAFBI prepared emulsions of the composite and coated them on the surfaces of samples of apples, peaches, and bananas. They found that the coating helped to significantly reduce fruit weight loss and softening and delay ripening. They also helped maintain sensory qualities compared to non-coated fruits.

The formulation could extend the post-harvest quality of some apple varieties for around 30 days, peaches up to 6-8 days and bananas up to 9 days without significant blackening under ambient storage. “The coating technology is simple and cost-effective. The edible material has potential as an alternative to commercially available animal based shellac coating in India,” the scientists said.

In another development food waste start-up Apeel Sciences, based in California, has secured $250 million in financing to further develop its technology to combat food waste by using a plant-derived solution to add a little extra ‘peel’ to the surface of fruits and vegetables. The company’s edible coating product reportedly doubles or triples the shelf life of many produce types without the need for refrigeration. The round brings the company’s valuation to over $1 billion.

It already has operations in the USA, Spain, The Netherlands, Mexico and Peru and is now producing commercial quantities of its invisible skin for limes, mandarins, avocados, oranges and organic apples with plans to greatly extend that range and expand into South Africa.

As reported by AIPIA previously the product is supplied as a powder and is diluted in water to be used as a spray or a dip. Apeel is made from plant extracts, usually lipids from agricultural by-products such as tomato skins or seeds. These self-assemble into structures (the skin) which enable the company to modulate the rate of oxygen or carbon dioxide transmission.

Apeel Sciences intends to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain and CEO James Rogers claims it is on track this year to save 20 million pieces of fruit from going to waste at retail stores.

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