Zespri will introduce the world's first and only fully compostable fruit labels on all Zespri Organic Kiwifruit next season.
Zespri's Global Marketing Manager - Organic, Glen Arrowsmith, explains this initiative is part of Zespri's leadership role and ongoing commitment to improving the environmental credentials of its products.
"Our international customers - retailers, wholesalers, consumers, governments - are increasingly interested in the sustainability of products arriving in their markets and we've invested in research and development to continue to lead the market in this area."
Zespri has worked closely with US-based label manufacturer Sinclair Systems for the past four years to overcome the significant technical challenges involved. This launch builds on a large-scale trial this year of five million of the compostable labels on Zespri Organic fruit sold across Europe, North America and some Asian markets.
"Making a premium Zespri brand label stick to hairy kiwifruit skin, hold together under the high humidity and cold temperatures in storage, and then break down reasonably quickly when thrown out with the fruit skin - it was a big challenge. But we've done it.
"The large-scale label trial we ran this year showed the compostable labels could be applied at speed in the packhouse and performed well through the supply chain to the retailers around the world which stock our fruit," says Mr Arrowsmith.
Manufacturer Sinclair tested the degradability of the labels to international ASTM standards (American Society for Testing and Materials) and found they degraded within 22 weeks with less than ten percent of the original dry matter remaining - well within the agreed specifications, with home compost trials to follow. The labels meet all relevant food safety regulations for direct food contact in the markets in which Zespri operates.
"We are extremely happy with the capability this compostable label brings to Zespri and the alternatives it represents to their customers.
Sinclair continues to focus on new ways to provide value for the industry. Zespri's collaboration in this project was key in bringing this initiative to fruition," says Bill Hallier, Sinclair's CEO.
Zespri's standard labels are made of polyethylene and - like all Zespri packaging materials - are 100 percent recyclable.
"We believe our current labels are also environmentally responsible. Our customers can stick them on a drink bottle or any other PET (polyethylene terephthalate) product and put them out in the recycling," says Mr Arrowsmith.
Through its partnership with Sinclair and investment in R&D, Zespri will lead the world with the first kiwifruit to have a compostable label. "We're sure other fruit marketers will also be keen to use this new environmentally-friendly technology in the future," says Mr Arrowsmith.
Zespri is committed to providing sustainable products in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This labeling initiative is part of a range of initiatives including comprehensive measurements of industry carbon and water footprints; an extensive three-year study on the effect of growing kiwifruit on soil carbon levels; and trialing measures to reduce waste, including developing a bio-spife (combination spoon-knife for cutting and scooping kiwifruit) made from bioplastic which contains eight percent fruit waste.