Valencia, Spain - Innovative laser labels for fruits and vegetables will soon arrive on the shelves of UK supermarkets, following the signing of an agreement between the leading retailer Marks & Spencer and the Spanish technological company Laser Food for a test to be carried out in a number of pilot stores.
The distributor will try the laser labeling system with oranges at several of its stores in the coming months, thus providing British consumers with the opportunity to see the technology that makes it possible to use markings on the fruit's surface without damaging it on the inside.
According to Andrew Mellonie, senior agronomist at Marks & Spencer, the company's first meeting with Laser Food took place shortly after the retailer's managers read an article on a laser labelling system developed by the Spanish specialist Jaime Sanfélix, director of Laser Food. (Editor's note – ILS broke the story on fruit labeling in 2004.) "We made an appointment with Laser Food after reading an article in the press," explains Mellonie. “We thought it would be interesting to test this concept because the fruit often comes with stickers that can be difficult to remove. Additionally, there can be changes in design, leaving producers with a stock of labels to be thrown away. From this point of view, the concept would fit very well with M&S's plan for sustainability.”
Although the date when the tests will start has yet to be confirmed, Mellonie says that the system should be introduced to a number of Marks & Spencer stores over the coming months, including support material from the distributor. "We are planning to test it with oranges in some stores, where there will also be something to explain the concept to consumers. M&S has a number of categories in mind to which the technology could be applied in the future," he assures.
The director of Laser Food, Jaime Sanfelix, assures that the system is becoming more popular outside of Spain—specifically, 90% of its activity. He says that the company, which offers a service tailored to the individual needs of each client, currently works with clients in Italy, France, Poland, and the UK, and have plans to enter markets as distant as Brazil, Australia, and Chile.
The technology, which offers an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional paper labels, involves de-pigmenting a tiny area in the fruit's surface and then applying a contrast liquid, allowing producers to create almost any type of hologram.
"To do this, only natural products are used, without causing the least damage to the fruit's surface or its inside, which means that the market value of the product is not affected in any way," affirms Sanfélix. He that this laser labeling system can be used with any kind of fruit or vegetable, stressing that its application on oranges is among the most difficult to achieve due to the essential oils present in the fruit's skin. The materials used in the process, including iron oxides and hydroxides, have been legally approved by the European Union in June 2013 for the de-pigmentation of fruit skin.
In addition to allowing trade names to be written directly on the fruit's surface, the system offers producers and distributors the possibility to add QR matrix codes, leading to greater traceability.
For more information, please contact Sanfélix at firstname.lastname@example.org.