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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Updated on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Emma Vince

kencko 2023: Five a Day – A Walk in the Park

Lucy Greeves, Vice President of kencko, discusses the immense problem of food surplus and waste and how kencko contributes to helping this cause using their freeze-drying technology to capture the nutrients of fresh produce in a shelf-stable form, reducing the level of spoiling in the supply chain and helping customers to waste up to 30% less – and have their five a day!

Why do you think that almost half of the world’s fresh fruit and vegetables are thrown away, and does this apply to organic produce as well?

Fruits and vegetables are inherently perishable. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, just over 50% (by edible mass) of fruits and veggies are wasted in the US: around 20% are lost at the farm during growing and harvesting, 10% are lost post-harvest but pre-customer (due to grading, transportation, retail waste, etc) and 20% are thrown away by customers after purchase. These calculations are based on edible mass.

The wastage rate definitely applies to organic foods as well – in fact, industrially-farmed fruits and vegetables are often sprayed with preservatives and stored in controlled atmospheres to prolong their lives, so fresh organic produce will often have an even greater rate of waste.

What’s the science behind your method of curbing this waste?

The fresh ingredients for our products are flash-frozen and then slowly dried to remove all the water content. It’s the water in fruits and vegetables that hastens decay, so by freeze-drying soon after harvest we can press “pause” on perishability and extend their shelf life to around one year.

Is freeze-drying a more efficient way of maintaining the nutrients in fruit and veg, rather than eating fresh produce a few days after harvest?

The nutrient profile of any fruit or vegetable starts to degrade as soon as it’s picked and continues to decline over time. In general, we underestimate the amount of nutrient loss during the storage of fresh produce.

We know that freeze-drying soon after harvest is an efficient way to preserve the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables: one study found no significant loss of vitamin C in freeze-dried strawberries, compared to 19% loss over seven days in the refrigerator.

The produce in your supermarket may be older than you think: although soft fruits like strawberries were probably picked less than a week ago, it could be a whole month since those tomatoes left the vine. Carrots are often 6-9 months old, and apples and potatoes can spend a whole year in special cold-storage facilities before reaching customers.

So not only is it really hard to judge a head-to-head between fresh and freeze-dried – but also, we’re not in competition! kencko offers a way for customers to help stop some of the food waste inherent in the fresh produce supply chain, and enjoy the convenience of over 50 different fruits and vegetables in their pantry without worrying about brown bananas or slimy spinach.

Why have you chosen to pursue the organic route only?

We believe that organic farming methods are better for the soil and better for customers. Our all-organic sourcing strategy allows us to support small-scale growers around the world, who get a fair price for their crops. We’re a certified B-Corp(™) as well as USDA and EU certified organic, which means that both our suppliers and our customers can count on our sourcing policies, processes, and quality assurance.

What percentage of the population would you expect to be able to maintain the five-a-day lifestyle without the help of products like yours?

According to the latest CDC figures, only about 1 in 10 Americans meet the minimum recommended intake for fruits and vegetables. That tells us people are finding it really difficult to get their five-a-day.

There are lots of reasons for this, of course – it’s not just because they don’t have kencko yet! But we know that our products help to remove a lot of the friction around buying, storing, and preparing fresh produce, and help people to fit more nutritious plant foods into their daily routines.

What can you tell us about your products and the quality of ingredients you work with?

In line with our B-Corp(™) and USDA/EU Organic certifications, we work with our suppliers to ensure that only the best quality ingredients are included in our freeze-dried instant smoothies, pure fruit and vegetable gumdrops, and instant meal bowls.

We don’t add artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, or refined sugars. Our mission is to make it easy for customers to hit the five-a-day minimum recommended intake for fruits and vegetables: we include 2.5 servings in each smoothie, one in each packet of gumdrops, and four in each meal bowl.

How sustainable do you believe kencko to be?

In 2021, we rescued 2210 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables that might otherwise have been wasted – that’s six tons every day. Our products are packaged in 100% compostable materials, with re-usable mixer bottles and bowls. That means that last year, we also helped our members avoid 9.3 million single-use plastic bottles, compared to buying ready-to-drink smoothies.

We already offset all emissions from shipping, and we’re on track to be a carbon-neutral enterprise in 2022. There’s always more to do, and we’re committed to keeping sustainability at the heart of our strategy.

Have you encountered any challenges whilst growing the business?

Pivoting to remote working and keeping the orders moving during the global pandemic was a challenge we relished. We’re proud of how the kencko team pulled together to make sure our members got their shelf-stable fruits and veggies, despite unprecedented disruptions to the global supply chain.

Where do you see kencko in the near future?

We’ll keep on fulfilling our mission to get more fruits and vegetables into more people’s daily routines! That means more products that are nutritious, convenient, delicious, and fit for different consumption moments.

It also means becoming more accessible, with wider distribution in more territories, and our first forays into retail. We’ll also continue to develop our nutrition coaching service to help our members build and maintain healthy habits.

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