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In late 2016, Eosta– under their brand name Nature & More – introduced the application of a laser technique to brand organic fruit and vegetables. They refer to it as natural branding, as a way to avoid the use of stickers and packaging in supermarkets.
The kick-off took place in Sweden, where Swedish supermarket ICA started selling Nature & More avocadoes and sweet potatoes marked using natural branding. Eosta did not stop there and purchased several machines to this end.
Today, almost six years later, this technology has resulted in saving fifty million pieces of plastic packaging. In addition, other wholesalers and supermarkets have since come to embrace it.
Natural branding involves marking fruit and vegetables using laser light; a process which requires the removal of a minor amount of pigment from the outer layer of the skin or peel. Additives are not required and the method has been approved by organic inspection authorities. The main advantage of these marks is that they avoid the need for packaging. Organic products are required by law to be recognisable as such by consumers. Without natural branding, this leaves many supermarkets with the need to package and/or sticker the organic products they sell while conventional (non-organic) products are sold without them. This film shows how it works. Currently, LaserFood (Spain) and EcoMark (Germany) are the main European providers of laser technology for branding fruit and vegetables.
Saving plastic and energy
This method saves plastic and paper and huge amounts of energy and emissions: a laser mark requires a mere fraction of the energy required for a sticker. Using natural branding, Eosta has managed to save fifty million pieces of plastic packaging, which 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. In 2018, Eosta received the Sustainable Food Award for this innovative packaging method.
Ginger in the lead, followed by avocadoes and mangoes
Natural branding is mostly applied to ginger, avocadoes, mangoes and sweet potatoes, in addition to cucumbers, kiwis and other products. Eosta has meanwhile started 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. Other supermarkets and wholesalers have also decided to purchase machines to brand their products.
Sustainable packaging = the absence of packaging
From the very start, Paul Hendriks, Eosta packaging manager, and packaging expert Gerben Borsje have been the moving spirit behind the natural branding technology. Hendriks’ philosophy is as simple as it is straightforward: “The most sustainable packaging is the absence of packaging, and for organic products, this is achieved using natural branding. Studies show that consumers are very happy about this, because they naturally prefer buying their organic products free from plastic packaging.”
Eosta, with Nature & More as its consumer brand and transparency system, is Europe’s top award-winning distributor of organic fruit and vegetables. The company operates worldwide. In 2018, the company was awarded the Koning Willem I Plaque for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and in 2019 the European Business Award for the Environment. Founder Volkert Engelsman was ranked No. 1 in the Trouw Sustainable 100. Also see www.eosta.com and www.natureandmore.com.