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Apeel teams with Houweling for plastic-free cucumbers

In their zeal to cut back on plastic use, some consumers have lost sight of the importance of the controlled atmosphere plastic on English cucumbers in extending shelf life.

However, under a new agreement with greenhouse grower Houweling Group BB #:177525, Apeel Sciences BB #:345580 promises the same shelf-life extension as plastic with its plant-based coating being used on cucumbers.

“It’s an effort to free the cucumber,” said Gordon Robertson, Apeel’s chief revenue officer, October 1.

He said starting in the first quarter of 2020, all of Houweling’s cucumbers grown in its Camarillo, CA, greenhouse will be shipped with Apeel coating instead of plastic.

“Consumers see the impact of single-use plastics,” Robertson said, “and this eliminates this single-use plastic in the system.”

He said Apeel delivers the same or better shelf-life as CA plastic on cucumbers.

As far as how to market and educate the consumer, Robertson said that club stores will provide a good opportunity, as multi-packs are merchandised in boxes, and Apeel plans to highlight stickers on the cucumbers. Both companies have some other ideas, he added.

Also, last week, Apeel CEO James Rogers told Apeel’s story to a national audience, as he was a guest on the CNBC show Mad Money with Jim Cramer. He discussed partnerships with retailers like Costco, and the most recently partnered, Kroger.

Here’s the official press release with the details from the companies on the cucumber partnership:

SANTA BARBARA, CA (October 2, 2019) — Apeel Sciences, one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies and a CNBC 2019 Disruptor 50, today announced an agreement with Houweling’s Group, a world-renowned greenhouse grower and marketer that is dedicated to delivering a full complement of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers while constantly innovating to reduce its environmental footprint. The Houweling’s Group will have access to Apeel’s plant-based technology to replace the single-use plastic wraps on its English cucumbers, reducing food and plastic waste at the same time.

“We are so excited to partner with Houweling’s Group knowing that sustainability is built into the fabric of their organization and we have the same mission of reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills every year,” said Gordon Robertson, Apeel Sciences’ Chief Revenue Officer. “Our growing network of suppliers is committed to using our technology to deliver longer-lasting produce, but we are incredibly proud to see Houweling’s utilize our technology as a way to replace the use of plastic wrap which will ultimately eliminate thousands of pounds of plastic waste per year.”

“We have a rich history of investing in green business practices, leading the industry to a more sustainable future, which is why Apeel is the perfect partner to help achieve our goals in protecting the planet,” said David Bell, CMO of Houweling’s Group. “We saw an opportunity with Apeel’s unique plant-derived solution that has proven to reduce food waste, but when we recognized Apeel could be used as a complete replacement for the functional plastic wrap on cucumbers, we became really excited. With the launch of Apeel-treated Houweling’s cucumbers, we will be addressing a significant pain point for environmentally conscious consumers. This enables us to bring sustainable solutions to our retail partners and create a pathway to significantly reduce plastic from the supply chain.”

This partnership comes at a time when approximately 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters into the oceans annually. According to the UN Environment, only 9% of all plastic waste produced has been recycled, revealing the crucial need to reduce plastic use at the source.

Houweling’s Group partners with top retailers on the west coast, supplying them with greenhouse grown produce year-round. Houweling’s can be found in leading membership-based club stores, national grocery chains, and regional grocers in the western USA. Apeel cucumbers will be available soon to retailers who share the goal to meet consumer demand to move away from plastic.

The Houweling’s and Apeel agreement comes after Apeel’s news last month that U.S. retailers will soon have year-round access to Apeel fruits and vegetables that stay fresh up to two to three times longer than untreated produce. Apeel’s supplier partnerships will enable a consistent supply of Apeel avocados, limes, asparagus, and apples – and now cucumbers – for U.S. retailers and consumers. This growing network of innovative grower-packer-shippers are committed to using Apeel’s plant-derived technology to deliver longer-lasting freshness and less waste on retail shelves and in homes across the country.

Houweling’s Groups is a world-renowned greenhouse vegetable grower, propagator, and marketer with facilities in Camarillo, CA, Mona, UT, Loveland, CO, and Delta, BC. Houweling’s focus on consistent, tasty and sustainable products is what sets it apart from other growers. From seeding through propagation, growing, nurturing, harvesting, packing, shipping, and servicing customers the company is the only true seed to table grower in the North Americas. In its quest for perfection, Houweling’s has become a pioneer of technologies that improve sustainability, food safety, yields, and consistency. Ultra-Clima® Greenhouses help to optimize conditions that allow crops to flourish – the right temperatures, humidity, light, carbon dioxide levels. Herbicides are never used in the greenhouse and pesticide-use is a last resort.

Apeel Sciences is a company that is fighting the global food waste crisis by utilizing nature’s tools to prevent waste in the first place — a sustainable approach to the world’s growing food demands. The company’s plant-derived technology helps fresh food growers, suppliers, and retailers maintain produce quality and extend shelf life, reducing food waste from the farm to the retail shelf to the kitchen table. Apeel Sciences was founded in 2012 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help reduce postharvest food loss in developing countries that lack access to refrigeration. Today, Apeel’s technology is proven effective at reducing the rate of spoilage for dozens of USDA Organic Certified and conventional produce categories, and the company works with partners ranging from smallholder farmers and local organic growers to the world’s largest food brands and retailers.

Founded by CEO James Rogers, Ph.D., Apeel Sciences investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Viking Global Investors, Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Powerplant Ventures, DBL Partners, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, and The Rockefeller Foundation. The company is recognized as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, a Friend of Champions 12.3, one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies 2019, and recipient of a 2018 AgFunder Innovation Award.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services