A Novel Way To Prevent Food Waste And Up-cycle Fruit

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Dried Fruit

Photo supplied by RIND

There is a new snack brand called RIND which is taking an innovative approach to “up-cycle” fruit that is fully edible but which doesn’t meet grocery shelf standards for appearance. Normally that sort of fruit goes into products like juice, sauce or jam. Some food system critics argue that it is wasteful to reject produce for “cosmetic” issues like being too large or too small, misshapen or discolored. In fact it does not make sense to incur the cost and resource footprint of getting such fruits or vegetables all the way to retail if they are likely to end up as uneaten food waste. It makes more sense to send it to those “side-streams” like juices or sauce and derive some income. That can actually be important to the overall economics of a packing house operation. Unfortunately, cheap imports of things like juice can undermine that value.

Fruits and vegetables judged ugly by mass market retailers – in this case in France (MIGUEL … [+] MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

What RIND offers is a way to increase the “side-stream” value of the less than perfect fruit by slicing and drying it and delivering it to consumers in a form that is particularly healthy, convenient and shelf stable. The unique feature of RIND’s approach in that they very intentionally retain the rind, skin or peel. It turns out that those outer layers have health benefits because they contain particularly high amounts of vitamins, minerals and health-promoting antioxidants. The idea of eating the rind of some fruits may sound odd, but once consumers try these products they are pleasantly surprised. Studies show that only one in ten American’s eats the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, so if this product line can help close that gap it would be a very positive outcome. Also, by using the outer layers of the fruit, RIND is achieving a form of food waste reduction.

RIND contracts with fruit packing companies and processors to turn the fruit into thinly sliced, dried, ready to eat snacks with a long shelf life. Their product line includes various mixes of oranges, mandarins, apples, pears, kiwis, strawberries, bananas, coconut, watermelon, honeydew melon, peaches, persimmons and pineapple.

Examples of RIND’s dried fruit and packaging

RIND Snacks

The process to make the snacks entails a triple washing step followed by slicing, and then a proprietary ‘low & slow’ heat dehydration process that maximizes the fruit’s nutritional benefits and achieves the desired texture. There isn’t the need for sulfites to prevent discoloration and that is a positive both for taste and because some people react badly to that stabilizer. There are two product lines – one which is crispy and oriented to single use snacking and one which is more chewy and is sold in a zippered pouches for interim storage. The target market includes consumers with busy schedules who need a “grab and go” option or who might end up wasting fresh fruit by leaving it too long in the refrigerator.

The concept behind RIND Snacks goes back to founder Matt Weiss’ great grandmother, Helen Seitner who ran what we would call a health food store in the 1920s. Weiss calls her “the original foodie.” She was passionate about avoiding waste and often said that “it was a sin to waste the skin.”

Matt Weiss as a child with his great grandmother and the logo for her store

Matt Weiss

RIND was started out of Weiss’ apartment in 2017 with a contracted run of 100 cases of product while he was working at a mutual fund investment firm. By 2020 Weiss left his “day job” and raised funding to pursue expansion.

Since the production side is all contracted with existing businesses, the main development expenses have to do with marketing and distribution. RIND snacks are now being offered in 10,000 doors including Whole Foods, Kroger KR , CVS, Wegmans and Meijer. It is also in the testing phase with Costco and Target TGT . The net effect is that consumers are getting a healthy snack option, the fruit industry is getting more value for its side streams, and there is less waste. In 2021 RIND kept 300,000 pounds of edible peels from becoming food waste and is on track to take that to 1 million pounds in 2022.

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