Laser Food, the technology pioneer behind safe laser-labelling for fresh fruits and vegetables, looks set for major expansion across Europe during 2018, following significant progress in the roll-out of the system in leading markets. Spearheaded by Laser Food customer Eosta, laser-labelled produce is now available for retail sale in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, with France likely to be added to the list this year. The technology’s growing acceptance has also sparked global interest from companies from Canada to China and Japan.
Laser-marking of fresh fruits and vegetables, the eco-friendly alternative to traditional labelling developed by Laser Food, has spread across Europe over the past 12 months with a growing number of major grocery retailers committing to the technology. In the wake of Eosta’s successful roll-out of laser-labelled produce with Swedish grocery retailer ICA in late 2016, the Dutch organic produce marketer is now supplying laser-marked products to major retailers across Europe as acceptance of the system grows. These now include Delhaize in Belgium, Rewe, Edeka and Netto in Germany, and Hoogvliet in the Netherlands. Additionally, Dutch retailer Albert Heijn is currently testing the concept, while roll-out with one or two grocery chains in France looks likely before the end of 2018.
Eosta invested in a Laser Mark machine in 2016 after meetings with the Laser Food team; a decision that was motivated, according to Eosta’s packaging expert, Paul Hendriks, by strong interest from grocery retail customers. Hendriks said: “We put it to some of our customers and two of the biggest supermarkets in Europe were very interested in pursuing this, and that resulted in us putting the first laser-marked products into stores of Swedish supermarket ICA by the end of the year.”
Beginning with avocados and sweet potato supported by an explanatory leaflet, Eosta has since expanded to also export laser-labelled butternut squash to the Swedish chain. The products form part of a range of 10 products that Eosta markets under its own Natural Branding label, which include mangos, ginger, pumpkins, cucumbers and courgettes. Since the introduction of the laser-marked fruits and vegetables with ICA, Hendriks said the response from both consumers and other retailers had been overwhelming. “It exploded on social media and we have been overloaded with positive comments,” he said. “We received enquiries from Canada to Japan and China and we connected them with Laser Food.”
Laser Food’s initial and ongoing support during the installation and day-to-day running of the system has played a key role in Eosta’s success in laser labelling, according to Laser Food International Business Development Manager Stephane Merit. “Eosta started with this technology two years ago and have benefited from our commitment to ongoing support,” he said. They have used the system very effectively and have been able to demonstrate to the market that laser labelling is not only more environmentally sustainable than traditional labelling, but that it also makes sense from an economic point of view as it enables savings on paper and materials.”
“This is an intelligent system capable of automatically detecting fruits and laser labelling them in real time independently of whether they are boxed or loose,” Merit added. Under Eosta’s Natural Branding label, the Laser Food system took top prize in the sustainability category at the Packaging Awards 2018; a win which Hendriks said had generated greater exposure for both Eosta and Laser Food. “I think laser labelling is becoming more accepted with more and more supermarkets coming on board,” he added. “It’s not something we want to keep exclusive because we feel this will make the world a better place. The more product comes into supermarkets with the laser marking, the more consumers are going to understand it.”