( Photo courtesy Evigence Sensors )

Israel-based Evigence Sensors is seeking inroads for its time-temperature sensor in the fresh produce business.

Zach Bluemer, New York-based vice president of sales and business development, said Evigence can add value in the realm of food safety and quality assurance for a number of fresh products, including flowers and fresh produce. 

The company has conducted pilots with salad mix and flowers, and also sees potential uses for berries, avocados and other items. The sensors can easily be applied to unit level in the packing process, he said.

The sensors can be calibrated for different time and temperature profiles to match different product profiles, ranging from hours to months.

Bluemer said Evigence has patent-protected sensors that show the freshness level of products by a visual color change. Each sensor is specially engineered to correspond to the time-temperature effects for the commodity it is designed for, mirroring the decline of the produce item as it happens.

The color-coded sensors are designed to help retailers and quick-service restaurants through unit level cold chain management. A change in the color of a sensor could be linked to dynamic pricing, kicking in discounts if shelf life will soon expire, and Bluemer said that will drive awareness of product handling and potentially lead to reduced waste.

“Evigence sensors are visual indicators that change color at a temperature-dependent rate, closely matching the actual behavior of the monitored products, thus giving an excellent indication for the monitored product’s shelf life,” Bluemer said.

Bluemer said Evigence sensors have been around about 10 years, with applications in the food and beverage world for about three years. 

“Now we’ve built that into the produce world where a lot of people are saying that the sensors are a lot more accurate in terms of judging shelf life than a static date code,” he said.

“If the product is left out for five hours, you know, in the boiling sun in the summertime, then the sensor’s going to change a lot quicker than if it were left in refrigerator, whereas a static code could not do that,” he said.

The sensors can be applied to pallets, cartons or consumer packs, he said, and can give greater transparency to the cold chain. The sensors can include a barcode if customers want tracing capability, he said.

“We can put it on the pallet or on the case, but where most people see the most value is on a per unit basis,” he said. “It makes sense to put them on as close to production as possible, and then you can monitor it all the way through to consumption,” he said.

Pilot program

A pilot program Evigence is running with a  leading retailer involves sensors being applied to flower cartons at origin. 

When the label changes color indicating freshness is almost exhausted, the product is discounted at the retail level. Because it is hard to merely look at flowers and judge freshness, Bluemer says the sensor gives consumers confidence.

“Finally, people can buy flowers and not have the fear of having to return them,” he said.

Bluemer said he believes there is great potential for Evigence sensors in leafy greens, berries, and other temperature sensitive fruit.

The company also did a pilot with a leading leafy greens producer, tracking lettuce through the foodservice distributor to a sandwich chain, he said.

Cost of the Evigence sensors, at a few cents each, is “manageable” for fresh produce, he said. 

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