Apeel, the startup that makes a natural coating to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, announced today via a release emailed to The Spoon that it had raised $250 million in fresh financing. The round was led by GIC with participation from Viking Global Investors, Upfront Ventures, Tao Capital Partners and Rock Creek Group. Celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry have also joined as minority, non-participatory investors.
Founded in 2015, Apeel is fighting the global fresh food waste problem by creating a foodsafe powder coating out of plant oils which, when applied to produce, can double or triple their lifespan. The “peel” functions as a barrier to keep water in and oxygen out, fighting the two main causes of produce rotting. Each fruit or vegetable has its own proprietary coating.
Currently, Apeel avocados are available in retailers in the U.S., including 1,110 Kroger stores. Last year the company launched its Apeel-treated avocados on store shelves in Denmark and Germany. In Germany it also offers coated mandarins and oranges.
Apeel’s CEO James Rogers also told me in an interview last week that, in addition to citrus and avocados, the company also has coatings for asparagus and cucumbers in the works.
Extending the lifespan of fresh produce can not only cut down on food waste but can also equate to major savings for retailers. So it’s no surprise that Apeel isn’t the only company working to make your fruit stay fresh for longer. StixFresh has a sticker that can extend produce shelf life by two weeks, and Hazel Technologies makes packaging inserts for bulk fruit and vegetable harvest boxes to slow ripening. Perhaps most similar to Apeel, Italian company Sufresca also makes an edible coating which it claims can extend produce shelf life by several weeks.
According to Rogers, Apeel distinguishes itself by using only edible, natural elements to “copy the way that Nature does it.” They also develop different coatings for each fruit or vegetable to optimize its lifespan. “Every piece of produce is a living, breathing thing, [and] it needs its own optimized little microclimate in order to survive optimally,” said Rogers.
Food waste is one of the leading contributors to global warming, and fresh foods — like fruit and vegetables — are one of the most common foods to go to waste. Of course, wasting food is also bad news for a grocery store’s bottom line — and consumers, for that matter.
Thus far, both consumers and grocery stores seem to be on board by Apeel’s products. Rogers told me that when markets put signs indicating that their produce has been coated with Apeel, they see double-digit increases in sales. “That starts to make sense when you realize that a lot of people are pricing waste into their purchase decisions.”
Today’s raise brings Apeel’s total funding to $360.1 million. With its new capital, Apeel will continue to focus on expansion in U.S. and Europe, but it will also allocate funds to support its initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America.