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An innovative approach to extending shelf life of avocados may end up reducing waste, saving energy and having an all-around positive impact on the environment, says the company that recently debuted the exclusive post-harvest technology.
Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc. now is using a post-harvest solution called AvoLast Powered by Hazel to extend the shelf life of avocados by several days, said Patrick Cortes, Mission’s senior director of business development.
“It’s a quarter-size packet that you put into a box, and it blocks the ethylene receptors of the avocado from absorbing ethylene, which inhibits the ripening process,” Cortes said.
The technology — 1-MCP (1-methylcyclopropene) — is not new to produce.
“It’s been around for a while,” he said, and is common in the apple industry.
Created by Chicago-based Hazel Technologies Inc. — a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded startup company — AvoLast is different from the one-step process used with apples, Cortes said.
AvoLast is “an organic process” that works over the course of several days, he said, “which gives us a better extension of the shelf life.”
“Another added benefit is a longer preservation of the internal quality,” he added, though he emphasized that AvoLast does not enhance the quality of the avocado.
The fruit is not treated with anything, he said.
“There is no residue.”
The technology is designed specifically to treat fruit in a small area, Cortes said, and it can be integrated anywhere in the supply chain.
It could be placed in a container before it is shipped off to India, or it could be used with fruit destined for the Pacific Northwest after it has been ripened, he said.
Although Hazel technology has been used with other commodities, Mission Produce formed an exclusive partnership for hass avocados in 2019, Cortes said.
The technology is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, where consumers are visiting supermarkets less and buying larger quantities of produce when they do go to the grocery store, he said.
“We need to make sure people are eating healthy because that is one of the main ways to ward off the virus, in addition to other safety precautions,” he said.
AvoLast can extend the ripe level of avocados by two to three days, Cortes said.
“That gives the retailer two to three more days to sell through that fruit,” he said.
“The benefit to the retailers is lower shrink and lower waste, which improves their bottom line.”
Consumers also would be less likely to throw fruit away.
Reducing waste is an important part of the program.
“We want to have the financial benefit and the positive experience increase for the consumers,” Cortes said, “but just as important is making sure we’re putting less avocados — less food in general — in landfills.”
Reducing waste has other benefits as well, such as saving water and other resources expended in growing and handling the fruit.
In a news release announcing the AvoLast program, Aidan Mouat, CEO of Hazel Technologies, said that, in the U.S. alone, food distribution waste consumes about 6% of the total energy budget, 24% of the fresh water and generates about 300 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions.
AvoLast also can be beneficial for foodservice, where managing food costs is particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic, Cortes said.
AvoLast gives foodservice operators “more peace of mind and a lot more confidence in what their inventory positions are,” he said.
AvoLast, which is compatible with both ripe and green avocados, was poised to launch with a handful of retailers earlier this year, but then the pandemic hit.
“That put everything on hold,” Cortes said.
The project is ramping up again as retailers continue to seek opportunities to reduce shrink, he said.
There’s even a major trial with a large restaurant chain.
There are varying degrees of shrink in different regions across the country and with different buyers, Cortes said.
“If you’re struggling with a high percentage of throwaways on avocados, this is definitely something that can significantly cut down those numbers, and do it in a very quick manner,” he said.