Upstart Hazel finds cachet for innovative sachets that extend produce shelf life

In 2017, Hazel Technologies was a plucky young startup with enough scientific success to raise $800,000 in seed funding and score a $600,000 development grant from the US Department of Agriculture. In late 2020, the company is finding early commercial success in its mission to decrease food waste through its innovative packaging.

Hazel creates packaging inserts, or sachets, that release ethylene inhibitors and other natural chemicals to slow down the ripening process of many fruits and vegetables. In the past three years, the company has expanded its product line from inserts for tropical fruits such as guava, starfruit and avocado to specialized ones for berries, grapes, plums, broccoli, and others. Now, Hazel is in the process of developing commercial pilots in the meat and other protein aisles.

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Hazel CEO Aidan Mouat said the technology is flexible enough to be optimised for a specific customer’s crop and location while also powerful enough to delay ripening by five to 10 days for many fruits and vegetables. 

“We have one production line in which we make the necessary technical adjustments on a crop-by-crop and sometimes even on a country-by-country basis to achieve the end result that we’re aiming for,” Mouat said. “In a way, we’re trying to standardize the shelf life using a single unifying technology platform.” 

The key is Hazel’s time-release technology, according to the company. Hazel’s satchels contain 1-methylocyclopronene (MPC) inhibitors to slow down ripening. But in many fruits such as avocados, the ethylene receptors are replaced every 24 hours, so a one-shot application doesn’t work. The packets treat the fruit

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