Whenever I head to the grocery store I can’t leave without buying a bunch of bananas. But I find that a) they all get ripe at exactly the same time, and b) I can never eat them quickly enough.
Thankfully this leads to a lot of amazing banana bread, but product waste is a huge problem in this country (and in my house). In the U.S. between 30 and 40 percent of all our food ends up in the trash, with fruit and vegetables being some of the most likely to be wasted.
StixFresh is trying to curb our produce food waste problem with a sticker. Just pop one on a piece of fresh fruit and it’ll extend its shelf life by up to 14 days.
I was initially skeptical too. StixFresh’s CEO and co-founder Moody Soliman explained the technology to me over the phone. “Interestingly, the non-sticky side is the effective one,” he said. The sticker’s coating contains compounds that plants naturally make to protect themselves from predators. When said compounds vaporize, they travel far enough to “cloak” the fruit in a protective compound, inhibiting bacteria growth to prevent premature spoilage and over-ripening.
So far, StixFresh works with apples, pears, avocados, dragon fruits, kiwis, mangoes, and citrus, and Soliman said that they’re working to grow the list. They’re also trying to branch out into more vegetables and the holy grain of food waste: berries. Not only do they spoil quickly, it’s also unfeasible to put a sticker on every single blueberry. “We’re exploring alternative delivery methods,” explained Soliman.
StixFresh has a patent pending for the technology. The stickers are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, which means they’re cleared to be used in food contact applications. They’re also made of paper, which means they’re better for the environment than all the plastic Chiquita banana stickers out there.
Then again, StixFresh’s end game is for their technology to end up on those branded stickers. “We’re envisioning that you’ll be able to apply our formulation to standard stickers,” said Soliman. “It will have Chiquita or Dole written on it, but it will have our [technology] in it as well.”
In addition to selling to distributors, StixFresh wants to make a consumer-facing option. Theoretically, people could pick up a pack of StixFresh stickers in the produce aisle and stick them on their avocados when they got home. “The simplicity of application allows it to be adapted at any point along the supply chain,” said Soliman.
This versatility is what sets StixFresh apart from Apeel, another produce-saving technology. Apeel creates an edible coating that farmers and distributors can apply to produce to extend shelf life. Which is super cool, but limiting; Apeel has also only been tested on avocados, asparagus, and some citrus fruits. The beauty of StixFresh is that it can be applied to a relatively wide variety of produce at any time, from harvest to home.
Of course, the downside is that you have to use stickers, which will eventually end up in a landfill. But that seems a small price to pay if it could significantly reduce the amount of food waste.
StixFresh recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign, which has exceeded its goal with 26 days left to go. The company is currently doing R&D out of a facility in Belgium and plans to send stickers to their early backers by August of this year. Soliman didn’t disclose pricing yet, saying it depended on how quickly they could scale production, but Early Bird backers on IndieGoGo can snag a pack of 50 stickers for $30.
As always when crowdfunding is involved, we have to have a healthy dose of skepticism about whether or not the product will actually make it to market. But StixFresh is a really good idea and (at least seemingly) pretty cheap to produce. Plus the company has a pending patent and some seed funding to back them up. If they do pull it off and I see their stickers in the grocery store someday, I’d definitely give them a try — even if that means less banana bread for me.