Fruit is marked by laser to cut la­belling

● Av­o­ca­dos to have in­for­ma­tion printed on skin in­stead of on pa­per

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By JANE BRADLEY jane.bradley@scots­

It is per­haps the coun­try’s most fash­ion­able fruit, with brunch and even dessert recipes in which it fea­tures be­com­ing firm favourites on the na­tion’s din­ner ta­bles.

Now, one su­per­mar­ket has worked out a way of re­duc­ing waste and la­belling on pack­ag­ing of av­o­ca­dos – by print­ing in­for­ma­tion on the skin rather than a pa­per la­bel.

Marks & Spencer said a suc­cess­ful trial could lead to the ini­tia­tive be­ing rolled out to other fruits and veg­eta­bles.

The re­tailer be­lieves the move, which will use less en­ergy and lead to a lower car­bon foot­print, is a first for the UK.

Ear­lier this year, Dutch fruit and veg sup­plier Na­ture & More col­lab­o­rated with Swedish su­per­mar­ket ICA to pi­o­neer the tech­nol­ogy, re­plac­ing the sticky la­bels on or­ganic av­o­ca­dos and sweet pota­toes with a laser mark.

The la­belling works by shin­ing in­tense light on to the av­o­cado’s skin, which re­tracts back and dis­colours only the very top layer, mean­ing it does not dam­age the fruit.

The av­o­ca­dos are lasered with the M&S logo, the best be­fore date, coun­try of ori­gin and prod­uct code for en­ter­ing at the till.

M&S fruit tech­nol­o­gist Char­lie Curtis said: “When we first saw the tech­nol­ogy in Swe­den a cou­ple of years ago, I knew we had to get in­volved. We’ve been fol­low­ing it for a while and are so ex­cited to fi­nally be launch­ing it on av­o­ca­dos.”

He added: “Sus­tain­abil­ity is at the heart of our busi­ness and the laser la­belling is a bril­liant way for us to re­duce pack­ag­ing and en­ergy use.”

M&S first in­tro­duced av­o­ca­dos in 1968 as an “Av­o­cado Pear”, which cus­tomers en­joyed as a dessert with cus­tard.

Last year the re­tailer sold 12 mil­lion av­o­ca­dos, with sales up 29 per cent on the year.

The re­tailer tri­alled a sim­i­lar laser tech­nique a few years ago on cit­rus fruit us­ing a dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy, but, while it looked ef­fec­tive and was quick to ap­ply, it caused a slight de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in skin qual­ity and was dis­con­tin­ued.

Mr Curtis said: “We could look at rolling the tech­nol­ogy out to all sorts of other fruit and veg­eta­bles in the fu­ture. We have the po­ten­tial to re­duce pack­ag­ing ex­po­nen­tially which is very ex­cit­ing.”

Leigh Sparks, pro­fes­sor of re­tail stud­ies at Stir­ling Uni­ver­sity, said that M&S had re­moved la­bels from its un­der­wear in re­cent years, re­plac­ing them with in­for­ma­tion printed on the fab­ric.

He said: “This is a sim­i­lar thing, al­though in a dif­fer­ent mar­ket. It means they don’t have the cost of at­tach­ing a la­bel and the cus­tomer doesn’t have the trou­ble of it fall­ing off. I can see the ben­e­fit if they can make it work.”

Last year, M&S at­tracted crit­i­cism from en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers when it launched pre-sliced, pack­aged av­o­cado, which crit­ics said cre­ated un­nec­ces­sary waste.

It also last year be­gan sell­ing both mini and gi­ant vari­a­tions of the fruit in re­sponse to in­creased de­mand.

Av­o­ca­dos have be­come pop­u­lar amid claims they con­tain “healthy fat”, with many “clean eat­ing” chefs such as St An­drews Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate Ella Wood­ward, of the De­li­ciously Ella se­ries of blogs and cook­books, laud­ing their ben­e­fits.

A Zero Waste Scot­land spokes­woman said: “We hope that all re­tail­ers con­tinue to look at new ways to re­duce waste.”

The laser-la­belled av­o­ca­dos are avail­able from Thurs­day in se­lected stores.

0 M&S is bring­ing in laser en­graved av­o­ca­dos, be­low in a trial to see if pack­ag­ing can be re­moved from fruit and veg­eta­bles

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