Currently, the coatings are focused on flowers and fruits with inedible skins, however, the companies are investigating opportunities for edible coatings on other fruits and vegetables.
Consumers today expect retailers to minimize food waste by exploring alternatives to plastic packaging which is what inspired the two companies to devise an environmentally-friendly coating.
The coating sets an alternative in motion that could improve on waste volumes in the value chain.
“At Rijk Zwaan, we are always keen to support partners in their search for solutions. The views on packaging are changing and some European countries – such as Spain and France – are already tightening the rules to curb the use of plastic in the fresh produce category,” says Heleen van Rijn-Wassenaar, marketing specialist cucumber, Rijk Zwaan.
Extending shelf life of fresh produce
Liquidseal is committed to extending the life of perishable fresh produce in a sustainable and cost-effective way. The company strives to replace the use of clamshells and shrink wrapping by developing edible coatings for fresh produce based on the snack cucumber pilot.
“Switching from plastic packaging to the edible coating is also an interesting option for growers, since all they require is a simple spray machine on their premises and the costs are comparable to packaging,” says Ernst van den Berg, international sales manager, Liquidseal.
“Edible coatings are not yet permitted for use on vegetables under European legislation, but the coating is allowed in the US and some other markets,” explains Van den Berg.
The coating for the snack cucumber represents a significant step toward a sustainable retail value chain. Retail partners can now offer consumers a product with less plastic packaging while preserving the shelf life of the snack cucumbers.
“One solution to the packaging issue is to breed cucumber varieties with a longer shelf life. However, we realized that additional measures would be necessary for snack cucumbers in order to preserve their shelf life in the value chain,” explains Van Rijn-Wassenaar.
“We knew that Liquidseal had already developed a coating for long cucumbers, so we reached out to them to discuss a similar solution for snack cucumbers,” she says.
Reducing food waste
Rijk Zwaan showcased Wokcue in 2021, a hybrid cultivar cucumber ideal for stir-frying and the quintessential Asian flavor. The cucumber variety stays firm and crunchy after cooking without the core having to be removed. The fruit is positioned to open up a whole new taste sensation for Western consumers who traditionally see it as a salad ingredient and snack, the company affirms.
Last year, Israeli agritech start-up Sufresca expanded its invisible edible coating for shelf life extension to more fresh produce products. The edible proved to work well with cherry tomato, cucumber and mango cultivars.
In 2020, Sufresca first developed their edible coatings to eliminate fresh produce plastic packaging and reduce food loss and waste. The tailor-made edible formulations arrive with easily implemented application techniques and maintain the appearance and taste of freshly harvested produce.