The fruit and vegetables in most grocery stores these days come with little stickers on them with a numerical code identifying the produce for the cashier at the checkout counter. They are quite helpful for the cashier but a real irritation for the customer. Half the time it is difficult to get the labels off the piece of produce and sometimes we don’t notice them at all and end up with a little paper sticker in our salad.
Apart from the annoyance factor, these stickers are a waste of resources and are non-biodegradable and clog up sewer systems since they often end up going down the sink.
The days of these annoying stickers may be numbered thanks to the work of a Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier that has teamed up with a Swedish supermarket. They have developed and are currently trying out a laser marking system on organic avocados and sweet potatoes.
The technology works by writing with a laser that removes some of the skin pigment from the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. It doesn’t damage the product or affect its shelf life, and it is permanent. A British market is trying it out on coconuts.
The next important test will be on edible skin products like apples and nectarines. If consumers react positively, the technique may spread to many other kinds of produce. Not only does this so-called natural branding technique eliminate the annoyance of removing and dealing with the little stickers, it also solves the opposite problem: sometimes the stickers come off from produce and the cashier doesn’t know what to ring up.
Not all technology advances are big ones; some just deal with sticky little problems.
Photo, posted October 11, 2012, courtesy of Rusty Clark via Flickr.
‘Produce Stickers’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.