Photo courtesy of Marks & Spencer

British store Marks and Spencer is leading the way

Catherine Zhang
June 21, 2017

Could laser-printed produce labels be the future of food? British retailer Marks & Spencer took a step toward sustainability by debuting avocados with laser-printed labels instead of traditional stickers. While removing one small sticker per avocado might not seem like much, these laser-printed produce labels will help save ten tons of paper and five tons of glue every year. The technology operates by shining an intense light on the skin of the avocado, discoloring the top layer. The fruit label will inform shoppers of the best before date and product code. It also displays the shop logo and country of origin.

Stickers often have trouble sticking to dry, wrinkly or waxy surfaces like those on avocados, cucumbers, or sweet potatoes, so it's win-win. Plus, demand for avocados has also increased dramatically over the past few years, so this laser-marking strategy is coming at a prime time to introduce the concept through a super-popular food.

“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 fruit technologist Charlie Curtis told the Telegraph.

M&S found inspiration from other companies that tested similar laser-printing strategies in the past, like Dutch produce supplier Nature & More and ICA, a Swedish supermarket. 

This could be a major step toward more efficient waste-reduction methods in the food industry. As consumers become more conscious of the environmental impact of the produce they buy, companies may implement this laser strategy across other food groups.

What’s next for this unique laser-printing technology? Curtis gave the example of lasering pumpkins with cutting guidelines for Halloween. Beyond this, companies and brands could print their logos and messages onto produce for promotional purposes, or to raise awareness about important social issues.

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