Laser labelling could revolutionise fresh fruit branding

Branded apple lovers could soon be buying their favourite fruit with Pink Lady or Jazz emblazoned in the skin as laser labelling is all set to replace adhesive labels on individual fruits following a move by the European Commission.

Amendments to annexes of EC regulation 1333/2008 approved on 3 June mean that materials such as iron oxides and hydroxides can now be used for laser labelling. The technique marks the surface of a fruit permanently using de-pigmentation without damaging the product itself.

This development will allow the addition of brand names and means that the supply chain can offer greater product traceability through QR matrix codes. Advocates also point to cost savings over paper labels. The legislation also enables the marking of PLU-codes and barcodes on certain fruits.

Laser Food, a Spanish labelling company, has been campaigning for three years to win this decision. The firm’s managing director Jaime Sanfelix said: “The unanimous approval of this regulation and its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union represents the beginning of a new era in the labelling of fresh produce since it is not just going to enable guaranteed traceability, but it can also do this in an indelible form.

“Consumers will have absolute certainty that the product they are buying is fully guaranteed because it will have identification marked on its skin that ensures that.”

Laser Food began developing the technology several years ago. “Today, thanks to our technology and the new legislation, fresh fruits and vegetables can be given an identity that stays with them until they are consumed,” added Sanfelix.

For José Bruñó of Spanish citrus and melon exporter Hermanos Bruñó, laser labelling can deliver assurances to clients that its products are clearly identified, while also adding value to the firm’s own brands by marking them on fruit in an indelible form.

“Without a doubt, clients are very interested in the advantages this technology can offer and we are receiving more and more enquiries about the system, especially for supporting ad-hoc marketing campaigns for events like Halloween or Valentine’s Day,” explained Bruño.

And in Almeria, Agrupaejido has worked with Laser Food’s system for the past three seasons and has enjoyed particular success with it on its watermelon range. The firm has found interest is increasing every year with clients requesting repeat orders.

David Baños, marketing and communications director said: “The system offers us the opportunity to personalise our products according to the needs of clients, for which reason it has become a sales tool itself.

“In this way, we are able to generate added value for Argupaejido’s products and provide food-safety guarantees to our customers and final consumers by making our products easily identifiable.”