WASHINGTON — Improved packaging and the growth of the fresh-cut category were two key factors that helped reduce spoilage and food loss of fruit in supermarkets during 2005 and 2006, according to a study released this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The report states that “average estimated food loss for fruit at the supermarket level decreased 2.3 percentage points from 10.7% in 2005 to 8.4% in 2006.” The report theorizes that the rapid growth of the fresh-cut category was largely responsible for that decrease, despite the fact that fresh-cut items tend to have a shorter shelf life than conventional produce.
In addition, clamshell packaging was credited with helping blueberries achieve the lowest loss of all the fruits measured, with 4.6% spoilage.
Papayas suffered the highest losses in 2006, with more than 50% of retail product spoiling or going to waste. The report noted that most U.S. supermarket customers are not familiar with when papayas are ripe, how to prepare them or how to use them as an ingredient.
However, spoilage and loss for mangoes dropped from 21.2% in 2005 to 7.7% in 2006, indicating that U.S. shoppers may be getting more accustomed to unfamiliar fruits. The report noted that the National Mango Board worked to raise awareness about product selection, and that mangoes became more popular in the fresh-cut sector during that time.