Founders: James Rogers (CEO), Louis Perez, Jenny Du
Headquarters: Goleta, California
Funding: $360 million
Valuation: $1 billion
Key technologies: Nanotechnology, material science, shelf-life extension technology
Industry: Agriculture, food harvesting
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 48 in 2019)
Food waste is a massive, if largely unspoken, problem on the planet. Approximately $2.6 trillion worth of food is wasted each year because it's spoiled before it can be consumed. Apeel was founded in 2012 to come up with a solution. The Goleta, California-based company has developed an edible substance that, when applied to the outside of harvested fruits and vegetables, creates an invisible shield that can double their lifespan without refrigeration. This, the company says, greatly reduces food waste at the supplier, retailer and consumer levels and helps preserve natural resources.
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Apeel's produce — oranges, apples, avocados, lemons, limes among them — is available in the U.S. in stores such as Kroger and Harps grocery stores and last year began expanding into Europe. In December it partnered with Nature's Pride, and its produce is now available in Germany and Denmark. The company's technology basically works like this: Plant materials that are left behind on the farm (leaves and peels, for instance) are blended, and then lipid molecules are extracted. The resulting powder is then turned into a liquid that is either sprayed on produce, or fruits and vegetables are dipped into the solution. It slows water loss and oxidation. The company's customers are farmers, growers and retailers.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Apeel says its technology has been in high demand since its technology enables longer-lasting produce and operational flexibility. That's important as the crisis has seriously disrupted the fresh-food supply chain. Additionally, as consumer food-buying behaviors have shifted toward the home, Apeel produce has been in greater demand because it's less likely to spoil as quickly.
Apeel has garnered endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry and has raised $360 million in funding from investors, including Viking Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, DBL Partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.