Tesco trials laser-etched labels on its XL avocados

Tesco, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, is taking a major step toward reducing material waste by trialling the use of laser-etched labels on its extra-large avocado range. This intriguing  form of ‘label’, aims to  minimise the environmental impact by eliminated paper or plastic labels. It involves using high-powered lasers to remove a tiny section of the top layer of the fruit’s skin, creating a clear and lasting label. It is part of Tesco’s broader commitment to finding innovative ways to reduce plastic waste in its product packaging as well as its environmental footprint.

Westfalia Fruit, which supplies the avocados, says this process, which takes less than a third of a second, is ideal for avocados due to their thick outer skin. The new laser-etching method is being tested in approximately 270 Tesco stores across the south-east of England. If successful, the initiative could be rolled out nationwide, replacing millions of plastic stickers and tray packaging. 

The supplier has also made assurances that the laser-etching process has no negative impact on the quality, shelf life, or taste of the avocados. The etched labels provide a visual impact and eliminate the need for traditional barcode stickers, which are often overlooked and not removed during household recycling, according to the company. 

Additionally, the process is efficient, taking less than a third of a second to complete for each avocado, ensuring that production speed is not compromised. Nearly a million plastic stickers could be eliminated from loose extra-large avocados based on current sales data, it is believed.

Tesco’s avocado buyer, Lisa Gilbey, expressed enthusiasm about the trial, stating that they are always seeking new ways to reduce the environmental impact of their products and cut down on plastic waste in consumers’ homes. They are keen to receive customer feedback on the laser-etched avocados, which they believe will provide a more sustainable option without compromising convenience or quality. 

An added benefit is that the laser-etched label ensure that the necessary information about the product is retained even after purchase, reducing confusion for consumers.

Westfalia Fruit’s general manager said that the company is exploring additional sustainable packaging solutions and methods to further reduce their environmental footprint, including collaborations with other retailers and industry leaders.

During his presentation at the recent ProPak Asia  AIPIA Seminar on Smart Packaging in Bangkok Simon Jones of Antares Vision, representing Australia’s Result Group, also showed examples of laser-etched labels being trialled for a major Australian retailer. These covered a variety of produce, including Lemons and even Apples and had complete QR codes lasered into the skin surface.  

AIPIA Comment: While this is a forward-thinking approach to reducing material waste there was no information about the energy usage to produce such labels and that must certainly be factored in when making environmental claims. In addition certain stickers, such as StixFresh, contain ethylene inhibitors which can greatly enhance the shelf-life for produce. So having a small label is not always the worst sustainable option – and they can provide strong and colourful branding opportunities.  

AIPIA and AWA Smart Packaging World Congress Amsterdam

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