Roughly one-third of all food produced around the world is wasted, according to data from the United Nations. This amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food each year, creating 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
Finding ways to curb waste has become a major focus for the food industry, consumers and investors in recent years. In 2020, nearly 200 companies pledged to cut food waste in half by 2030, including Mondelez, Nestlé and PepsiCo. That same year, the Consumer Goods Forum organized a group led by CEOs at 14 of the largest manufacturers and retailers to tackle food waste, including General Mills, Kellogg, Nestlé, McCain Foods and Barilla.
Innovation could be a major piece of the puzzle in helping companies reach that goal. Tapping a startup’s technology offers a quicker way to find workable solutions compared to developing a food waste-focused R&D department in-house or completely revamping supply chain logistics. Investors have caught on to this opportunity: In 2018, food waste startups raised $125 million in venture funding, and they continue to draw investments.
Hazel’s sachets offer a relatively easy way to keep produce on the shelf longer. They do not require additional infrastructure, machinery, or staff training. The sachets can also be used along each step of the supply chain without requiring workers to change current operations.
Hazel claims to be working with over 160 companies in 12 countries, including Mission Avocado, kiwifruit distributor Zespri, and Canadian produce distributor Oppy. It reports being on track to have its sachets used with over 6.3 billion pounds of fresh produce, which will ultimately prevent over 500 million pounds of it from ending up in the trash. And on top of produce, Hazel is also reportedly exploring applications of its technology to meat products.
There are several other startups tackling the food waste problem. Apeel Sciences, which raised $250 million last year from names like Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry, has developed a plant-based coating applied to produce that extends shelf life. StixFresh has created a sticker that can extend the shelf-life of certain produce items by up to 14 days through the release of chemicals that help protect the produce. Meanwhile, Seebo, which announced a $24 million venture round last month, is using AI to help food manufacturers reduce waste during production.
Despite the increasingly competitive food waste tech segment, Hazel seems to be keeping pace. It was recently selected as a finalist for Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas competition, won Best Sustainable Packaging at the 2020 World Food Innovation Awards and it has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2020 for its potato-focused preservation tech.