- Title: Laser-etched avocados will cut packaging, say M&S
- Date: 23rd June 2017
- Summary: VARIOUS OF ITEMS BEING SCANNED
- Embargoed: 7th July 2017 01:21
- Keywords: avocado avocados laser stickering stickers landfill recycling M&S
- Location: PADDOCK WOOD AND TONBRIDGE, KENT
- City: PADDOCK WOOD AND TONBRIDGE, KENT
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Information Technologies / Computer Sciences,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0046MHY257
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A leading British retailer has launched an innovative solution to the wasteful use of paper stickers on fresh produce.
On Thursday (June 22) Marks and Spencer (M&S) began selling avocados marked with laser-etchings showing a best-before date and place of origin, in some UK stores.
Charlie Curtis, M&S senior produce agronomist, told Reuters the laser removes a single layer of skin without damaging the fruit.
"It's only taking off a very small layer of the cells. It doesn't actually penetrate the fruit in any way," said Curtis.
It took six months for M&S to perfect the laser process, but if the trial succeeds, laser-labelling could be extended to other fruit and vegetables. The retailer plans to extend laser etching to melons.
"I think for the two lines that we're going to launch this it on in total it's 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue, so it's phenomenal," said Curtis.
The firm experimented with citrus fruits, but found the laser penetrated too far into the soft, porous skin. This also made the fruit deteriorate faster.
Curtis says tougher skinned fruit like pumpkins could be lasered, perhaps with "cut here" scary faces for Halloween.
The retailer tried to laser a barcode onto avocados, but found the skin too uneven, although other produce shouldn't face the same problem.
Lasered avocados have been launched in a quarter of M&S stores in the UK. If customer reaction is positive, it will be introduced in every outlet.
Curtis told Reuters that the laser machine will save the company money and is both faster and more precise than traditional stickering.
At an M&S store in the town of Tonbridge, shoppers liked the idea.
"This is a really good idea," said Sheila Buttle. "I suppose it's slightly limited, but nevertheless the more things you can do it to the better, for everybody."
"If we could introduce it on other items to reduce packaging it would be a great thing," agreed David Bennett.
"It's very important to try to switch to recycling but inevitably people end up putting things into landfill. Something like this prevents any waste going to landfill," said Lori Fisher.
Founded in 1884, M&S is one of the UK's leading brands, selling luxury food products, clothing, and home products. It has 959 stores across the UK, including 615 that only sell food products.
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