How de you know when a piece of fruit is ripe? You squeeze it, right? Not any more. Now you can just look at the label.
A new label technology developed in New Zealand has made a quiet debut in grocery stores in Portland, OR, where it is being tested in packages of Anjou pears. The pears are sealed in a plastic shell, and along with them is a label featuring a large dot that changes color as the pears ripen. How it knows how to do this is the mystery, and the group that developed it--the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand (HertResearch)--is keeping the details to itself.
The label technology, called ripeSense, was developed by two HortResearch scientists, Keith Sharrock and Ron Henzell. They worked with Jenkins Group, a New Zealand converter, to produce the labels. "It works by detecting aroma compounds given off by the fruit as it ripens, changing the label through a range of vibrant colors," says Sharrock. The development period, he adds, was five years, and was funded largely by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
A main reason for developing ripeSense for pears, Sharrock adds, "is the difficulty shoppers have determining fruit ripeness. Pears, unlike apples, need to soften before they achieve their maximum flavor, and shoppers often squeeze...