British retailer says laser-etched avocados will cut packaging.

A leading British retailer has launched an innovative solution to the wasteful use of paper stickers on fresh produce. Marks and Spencer, or M&S as the chain is commonly known began selling avocados marked with laser-etchings showing a best-before date and place of origin, in some UK stores. Charlie Curtis, M&S’ senior produce agronomist, says the laser removes a single layer of skin without damaging the fruit. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHARLIE CURTIS, SENIOR AGRONOMIST AT MARKS AND SPENCER, SAYING: “It doesn’t actually penetrate the fruit in any way. At Marks & Spencer quality is our number one so we wouldn’t do any innovation if we thought it was going to compromise on quality. It literally just takes off the first layer and it puts it in, it’s incredibly precise.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHARLIE CURTIS, SENIOR AGRONOMIST AT MARKS AND SPENCER, SAYING: “We’ve been trying it in the U.K. now with the team here for about six to eight weeks. Just putting different fruit through, trialling different texts, different font sizes. We tried to do barcodes. Unfortunately we couldn’t do barcodes. The skin is just too wrinkly. So we’ve managed to get as much information on there as possible. So it’s our brand, the country of origin, the short code for the till, and the best before date.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHARLIE CURTIS, SENIOR AGRONOMIST AT MARKS AND SPENCER, SAYING: “I think for the two lines that we’re going to launch this it on in total that’s 10 tons of paper and five tonnes of glue. So it’s phenomenal.” The firm experimented with citrus fruits, but found the laser penetrated too far into the soft, porous skin. This also made the fruit deteriorate faster. At an M&S store in the town of Tonbridge, shoppers liked the idea. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHEILA BUTTLE, SHOPPER, SAYING: “This is a really good idea. I suppose it’s slightly limited, but nevertheless the more things you can do it to the better, for everybody.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID BENNETT, SHOPPER, SAYING: “I haven’t seen it before and if we could introduce it on other things to stop packaging it would be a great thing.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) LORI FISHER, SHOPPER, SAYING: “I think it’s very important to try to switch to recycling but inevitably it doesn’t always work, people end up putting things into landfill – and so something like this prevents any waste going to landfill.” Founded in 1884, M&S is one of the UK’s leading brands, selling luxury food, clothing, and home products. It has 959 stores across the UK, including 615 that only sell food.

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