A ‘smart’ label that changes colour to indicate the ripeness of fruit has been developed by two New Zealand HortResearch scientists in partnership with the Jenkins Group, a label manufacturer.
The ripeSense sensor label is currently being applied to pears and works by detecting aroma compounds given off by the fruit as it ripens, changing the label through a range of vibrant colours.
A special clamshell pack, moulded to the shape of the pears, had to be developed to trap the aroma compounds necessary for the ripeSense sensor to function. The packaging also protects the pears from crushing and bruising, permitting retailers to sell tender juicy ripe fruit without wastage.
A key reason ripeSense was developed for pears is because of the difficulty shoppers have determining fruit ripeness. Pears, unlike apples, need to soften before they achieve their maximum flavour and shoppers often squeeze and damage the fruit as they make their selection. But they also propose to develop sensor labels for summerfruit, kiwifruit, avocado and melons.
The technology is currently on trial at supermarkets in Portland, OR in the US.