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Organic food distributor saves 50m pieces of plastic using laser marking

Eosta, a European distributor of organic fruit and vegetables, has announced its saving of fifty million pieces of plastic packaging thanks to its use of laser marking technology.

The distributor adopted the technology in 2016 to brand its produce – a technique it calls ‘natural branding’ – in an effort to reduce the use of stickers and packaging in supermarkets.

Organic products are required by law to be recognisable as such by consumers. Traditionally this has led to many supermarkets needing to package and/or sticker the organic products they sell. 

Natural branding instead requires the removal of a minor amount of pigment from the outer layer of the skin or peel of a vegetable or fruit. A mark is made without the use of additives or any form of sticker/packaging. The method not only saves plastic and paper, but also large amounts of energy and emissions: a laser mark requires a mere fraction of the energy required for a sticker. The method has been approved by organic inspection authorities.

Eosta’s kick-off using the technology took place in Sweden, where supermarket ICA started selling avocados and sweet potatoes marked using natural branding. 

Eosta went on to purchase several laser marking machines and has now announced that the technology has resulted in the saving of fifty million pieces of plastic packaging. This corresponds to 500,000 kg of plastic, 216,000 square metres of paper, and an energy saving of 2.2 million kg of CO2 emissions, equalling 19 million kilometres driven by car. 

Natural branding is mostly applied to ginger, avocados, mangoes and sweet potatoes, in addition to cucumbers, kiwis and other products. Eosta has also begun investigating methods to brand citrus and other fruit varieties. Consumers are extremely enthusiastic about this: most conscious consumers feel frustrated when seeing the huge amounts of plastic used to package organic fruit and vegetables.

“The most sustainable packaging is the absence of packaging, and for organic products, this is achieved using natural branding,” said Paul Hendriks, Eosta packaging manager. “Studies show that consumers are very happy about this, because they naturally prefer buying their organic products free from plastic packaging.”

In 2018, Eosta received the Sustainable Food Award for its use of natural branding.

Other wholesalers and supermarkets have also adopted natural branding. Currently, LaserFood (Spain) and EcoMark (Germany) are the main European providers of laser technology for branding fruit and vegetables.

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