Article by Mareya Ibrahim, Founder and CEO, Eat Cleaner and Grow Green Industries, Inc.
We throw away a lot of food. I mean mega TONS. Enough to where according to the UNEP, organic food waste is the largest source of methane emissions. That largely comes from fresh produce rotting in landfills. You’ve probably seen the word ‘ugly fruit’ floating around, where a little wormhole here or bruise there doesn’t render an apple inedible, but simply a little worse for the wear and then maybe sold at a discount price.
It begs the question, why aren’t we trying to make it over and give it a fresh, new package instead of calling it ‘ugly’?
According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), appearance is the number one factor that influences a customer’s decision to select a produce item. In the restaurant world, when you’re overstocked on an item, you turn it into the lunch special. Retailers, club stores and farmer’s markets can easily convert produce that’s about to go bad into profit by making their fruit and vegetables ready-to-eat and packaged attractively. Give a child or adult for that matter a whole piece of fruit and it might not look that appealing. Slice it up into bite-sized pieces and watch it get inhaled. Just look at Subway and McDonald’s with their ubiquitous bags of sliced apples for kids. Now, apply that to pears, berries, stone fruit, avocado and melons and you’ve just expanded the potential offerings in the market exponentially.
- Consumers are willing to pay for convenience
- The demand for healthy, grab and go options continues to dominate
- People want to have organic choices, and those tend to go bad quickly
- Cut-up produce is the largest growth segment of the industry
Do you have to be a large scale processor with fancy equipment? No.
The first step is to slow down the degradation process of the fruit or vegetable. By properly washing produce with a product like eatCleaner®, an all-natural wash solution made in the USA, they can expect added shelf life and enhanced food safety of the product by removing up to 99.9% of the pesticides, wax and contaminants that can carry bacteria. eatCleaner is available in a 3-lb food service powder bag with a usage rate of 1 scoop (2 oz.) per 5 gallon sink which can process up to 200 lbs. of produce and costs a fraction of a penny per 1 cup serving of produce.
It also enhances the appearance, flavor and texture of produce while extending produce shelf-life up to 5 times longer, significantly reducing shrink and waste. It is as simple as adding the powder to cold water, soaking and agitating produce for 30 seconds, and finishing with a quick rinse. This does not require a closed system and can easily scale to any sized wash tank or flume – even a bus tub – so a grocery store or even a farmer’s market could easily do this in their prep area. Also, eatCleaner® is also free from alcohol, chlorine and peracetic acid, protecting worker and customer safety.
For cut produce that can brown, eatFresh-FC™ is a miracle worker. A blend of organic fruit acids, antioxidants and natural salts, it’s formulated to keep cut apples and other produce items from browning for up to 45 days while preserving texture, color and flavor. By just mixing the eatFresh-FC into cold water, you can simply cut and soak apple slices for just 30 seconds to get an average of 26 days of shelf life. Now those ugly apples get a new chance at life.
You can also mix the eatFresh-FC powder into dip preparations – like guacamole, salsa and hummus – to inhibit yeast and mold growth to extend shelf life. This clean label solution’s applications are endless.
One of my big projects was to help a major retailer create a fresh-cut program in the Southern California division. By getting cut potatoes, zucchini, beets and a myriad of other fresh produce sliced and packaged, seasoned and with herbs already enclosed, they saw their sales skyrocket and now, it is the most profitable program in the department. They also use eatFresh-FC with their guacamole to help it from browning for up to 5 days, retaining that gorgeous, bright green color that helps it fly off the shelf.
For retailers and food service companies thinking, how do I make this work for me – chew on this. Package those washed and cut produce items and dips in convenient to-go containers that can sit in your cupholder while you’re whipping around town and you’ve taken fresh produce from perishing to profit, without having to have a large scale processing facility or fancy equipment. You’re selling healthy convenience, and people are ready to buy. The more we can make fresh fruit and veggies easier to eat, the better the impact on the environment’s health and our personal health, and the healthier your bottom line.
Mareya Ibrahim is The Fit Foodie, an award-winning entrepreneur, writer, chef and clean eating expert. She is founder and CEO of Grow Green Industries, the makers of eco solutions for food safety and the co-inventor of the eatCleaner® patented line of natural and organic food safety and shelf life extension products. She is the creator of the Eat Cleaner Meal Prep Club, the only macronutrient, chef-prepared and dietician-driven meal preparation plan and her book “The Clean Eating Handbook” is touted as the ‘go-to’ guide for clean eating. Mareya is a frequent TV contributor and a featured chef on the Emmy-nominated show Recipe Rehab.