( AgroFresh )

Philadelphia-based AgroFresh says its RipeLock system is delivering big benefits to the banana supply chain.

The proprietary system couples 1-MCP technology with unique micro-perforated bag packaging to slow ripening and reduce spoilage, according to company officials. The net result is better shelf appeal and ripeness, according to the company, giving 4-6 days extension in banana yellow life.

AgroFresh retail solutions director Narciso Vivot said the RipeLock system was developed in the past five years and has been commercially deployed for about two years. 

“We have customers on the West Coast, on the East Coast and also in the Southeast,” Vivot said, adding that the RipeLock system also is being used in Europe.

To put it simply, he said RipeLock is a post-harvest solution that slows down the ripening process for bananas and keeps the bananas from turning brown too quickly.

“One of the major visions of AgroFresh is to reduce waste, and this is a great system to do that because you can keep your bananas yellow — the right consumer point of preference — for a longer period of time,” he said. 

The modified atmosphere bag is packaged at the source and continues through the supply chain.

Vivot said the bag can easily be used at shipping point, since bananas are typically packed in a liner anyway. The modified atmosphere packaging has to be securely sealed with a knot and a rubber band to make sure the exchange of gas will work as planned.

“We are working with all the major banana companies and some small banana companies out of Ecuador — they have no problem tying the bags and ensure that the bags are properly closed and the bananas are properly packed,” he said.

The bag keeps the right level of oxygen and carbon dioxide so the bananas are fresh and healthy all the way through the supply chain.

When RipeLock boxes arrive at a distribution center, the active ingredient is applied to the fruit, which acts to extend the yellow shelf life of the bananas up to six days. 

“That brings a lot of benefits not only to the retailer but to consumers,” Vivot said.

For retailers, RipeLock provides flexibility in the supply chain by allowing retailers to better manage their inventory, he said.

The systems also reduce fruit weight loss.

The modified atmosphere packaging prevents the bananas from dehydrating during the supply chain.

“We found that in several research (projects) that we did in collaboration with some of our customers that you can gain between a pound and pound and half of weight (per carton) by using the RipeLock technology,” Vivot said. 

“It will help retailers to display the right color at the store, which increases sales as well as reduces waste,” he said.
The system also saves labor since the boxes don’t have to be stacked for purposes of uniform ripening in the retail back room because the respiration rate of the fruit is low.

“So you have a cost-saving component on the cost side and also an increase in sales,” he said. “If you have a good banana display, that will have a secondary effect to the rest of the produce department.”

Consumers will buy more bananas that will stay fresh and remain at the right color, he said.

“Shoppers can buy more bananas per visit — let’s say you (normally) buy five bananas, now you can buy six or seven and that’s going to last up to six days on your kitchen counter without going to waste,” he said.

Vivot said AgroFresh works with retailers to make sure the ripening process and the implementation and adoption of the technology goes smoothly.