Edible tattoos eliminate food packaging!

Posted on 04 May 2021.

Plastic packaging and labels on organic fruit and vegetables in supermarkets could soon disappear thanks to an innovation: edible tattoos.

You can tell the difference between organic and non-organic produce in the fruit and veggie section of our supermarkets by the packaging. It’s a regulatory obligation that makes sure consumers don’t confuse organic and conventional. Adorned with packaging such as plastic or cardboard trays, cellophane and nets, our organic fruit and veggies are responsible for a colossal amount of single-use packaging. Waste that for the most part comes from non-renewable resources.

Discerning consumers face a real dilemma between buying organic fruit and vegetables and generating packaging waste. A Catch-22 that may soon be resolved!

In fact, a revolutionary innovation has recently hit fruit and vegetable packaging: Natural Branding. It eliminates the need for organic fruit and vegetable packaging in supermarkets by tattooing the skins.

Natural Branding aims to eliminate organic fruit and vegetable packaging from supermarkets by replacing it with tattoos.

The brainchild of Nature'More in the Netherlands and Ica in Sweden, the process doesn’t use ink or any other toxic substances. It consists of removing a thin layer of skin with a laser that projects a powerful light beam. The "organic" tattoo (and other information) appears on the skin of the fruit or vegetable. The tattoo has no effect on quality, taste or shelf life. And the skin is still edible - including the tattoo!

The solution heralds the possibility of waving goodbye to both single-use packaging and labels stuck on fruit and veg - a waste of glue and paper. ICA reckons that by tattooing all the avocados sold by the Group, the saving would be as much as 200 kms of 30 cm wide plastic! 

The process is very energy efficient too. It uses less than 1% of the energy needed to produce an adhesive label.

Several countries have already started tattooing their organic fruit and veggies. The pioneers are New Zealand and Australia where Natural Branding has been in use since 2009. In Europe, the process has been authorized since 2013 and is being tested on several products in the Netherlands. More recently, the retailer Delhaize in Belgium started trials. The Belgian group hopes to save 13 million metric tons of waste in just one year. 

An argument that, for once, could well mean we don’t regret getting that tattoo!