Leading UK supermarket chain Tesco has introduced a trial using a lipid-based edible coating for fruit in its stores in a bid to extend shelf life and reduce food waste, the company said.

The Apeel product used was designed to help keep fruit fresh for up to twice as long, Tesco said.

Using lipids, the coating works by building a film that locks in moisture and repels oxygen, according to a Wired report.

Plants had evolved a substance called cutin, a waxy, protective barrier comprised of fatty acids that linked together to form a seal around the plant, helping keep moisture in, the report said. The Apeel product made use of this relationship between lipid molecules naturally found in fruit.

“When we deposit them on a piece of produce and it dries, the result is that we form… this special barrier which mimics that structure,” Apeel CEO James Rogers was quoted as saying.

In the trial, approximately 80 Tesco Extras and Superstores around the Peterborough area would stock Apeel-coated Jaffa oranges, Jaffa sweet easy peelers and lemon packs to assess the impact it has on shelf life, with the information then assessed by Tesco customer panels, the company said.

“Tackling food waste is one of the ways we’re working hard to minimise our environmental impact and help protect the planet. Apeel could be a powerful tool in helping us cut waste in our supply chain and help customers reduce it in their homes,” Tesco Group quality director Sarah Bradbury said.

The use of Apeel could also help reduce plastic packaging, Tesco said in the 24 February statement. For example, plastic wrap was currently used to extend the shelf life of cucumbers in the store, but this would not be needed if Apeel was able to replicate the protective effect of packaging.

Apeel is a trademark/registered trademark of Apeel Technology in the USA, the European Union, and other parts of the world. According to the company website, Apeel uses materials that exist in the peels, seeds and pulp of all fruits and vegetables to create a protective extra layer that seals moisture in and keeps oxygen out.

In September 2020, Tesco announced they had worked in partnership with their suppliers to cut 200,000 tonnes of food waste from its combined operations.