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Ice-less Broccoli Packing Comes to Sobeys

Canadian chain teams up with Verdant Technologies on solution that extends shelf life and improves sustainability
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Verdant Technologies' solution eliminates ethylene, which leads to spoilage in vegetables like broccoli.

To enhance sustainability in the supply chain, Verdant Technologies is teaming up with Sobeys Inc. to eliminate ice from broccoli shipments. The tech provider is providing its ice-less HarvestHold technology for use in bunch broccoli packing at the Canadian grocer’s Sobeys, IGA, Foodland and FreschCo banners. 

The active ingredient in Verdant’s technology eliminates ethylene, a natural compound in broccoli that leads to over-ripening and spoilage. Vegetables stay fresher longer, reducing food waste and also cutting down carbon emissions related to preparing and transporting the product. Because packages don’t contain ice, there is also a lower risk of employee falls and injuries related to potential water spills, the company claims.  

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The parent company of Sobeys, Empire Co. Ltd., was the first major retailer in North American to adapt this technology. This year, as Sobeys changes up its broccoli shipments, the grocer is working with other grower partners to integrate the technology in additional commodities and locations. 

"Stemming from a hugely successful pilot in Ontario and Québec, we are now working with growers across North America to expand the learnings to the entire broccoli supply chain — and what we learned was that we can realize the benefits of reduced water use, less spoilage and fewer trucks needed for transporting produce, while improving freshness in the customer's produce grocery basket," explained Myriam Tremblay, VP produce merchandise, sourcing and replenishment at Sobeys. "Working with Verdant and partnering in this initiative has enabled us to implement a truly unique farm-to-plate innovation that provides advantages at each stage of the supply chain. We're excited to see what can happen at a national scale and hope to see it used with other commodities coming into our stores."

According to Matthew Aronson, chief revenue officer at Verdant Technologies, the impact can be felt by end users, retailers and grocers. "Through our collaborative approach with Sobeys and its grower partners, we've shown that broccoli transported without ice using HarvestHold Fresh retains its fresh, vibrant green hue and firmness up to a week longer than its ice-shipped counterparts. These findings not only confirm the effectiveness of HarvestHold Fresh, but also set a new benchmark in produce logistics and environmental stewardship," he remarked. 

Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based Empire’s key businesses are food retailing through wholly owned subsidiary Sobeys Inc., and related real estate. With approximately CAD $30.9 billion in annual sales and CAD $16.4 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 130,000 people. The company is No. 19 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America

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