Swedish supermarket tests lasers to label veg

2017-02-15 21:00
(James Brooks, AP)

(James Brooks, AP)

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Malmo - Something high-tech is happening in the fruit and vegetable aisles at some Swedish supermarkets, where laser marks have replaced labels on the organic avocados and sweet potatoes.

Swedish supermarket chain ICA started experimenting in December with "natural branding," a process that uses low-energy carbon dioxide lasers to remove the pigment from the outer skins of fruits and vegetables.

The laser beams create tattoo-like patterns - in this case the product's name, country of origin and code number - similar to the way hot irons brand cattle. If its test is successful, ICA, which has 1 350 stores across Sweden, hopes to cut down on the stickers and packaging it now uses to identify its organic produce.

"It's a new technique and we're searching for a smarter way of branding our products due to the fact that we think we have too much unnecessary plastic material or packaging material on our products," said Peter Hagg, the chain's senior manager for fruits and vegetables.

Produce supplier

ICA decided to start with sweet potatoes and avocados because their peels are not typically eaten and have a tendency to shed the stickers normally used to brand produce. But branded broccoli and engraved eggplants may not be far behind.

Later this year, the chain plans to test laser-marking melons plus some items with consumable skins to gauge consumer reaction. Hagg claims lasering has no negative effects on the fruit and vegetables.

"It's very delicate. Because the mark is not going through the skin in any way, it doesn't affect the quality or taste of the product," he said.

Laser labeling has been used in Australia and New Zealand since 2009 and was approved for use in European Union countries in 2013, according to Eosta, the Netherlands-based produce supplier that is working with ICA to test the technology in Sweden.

Read more on:    sweden  |  technology

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