CNBC Disruptor 50

30. Apeel

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Founders: James Rogers (CEO), Louis Perez, Jenny Du
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Goleta, California
Funding:
$385 million
Valuation: $1.1 billion (PitchBook)
Industry:
Food
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 3 (No. 34 in 2020)

Persephone Kavallines

New challenges brought on by the pandemic make the $2.6 trillion issue of food waste, already a growing problem on a global scale, a more pressing priority for the agriculture and food sectors. 

Nearly 25% of fruit and vegetables are lost globally, and North America is among the global regions with the highest level of food waste. For Apeel — which has developed a coating to preserve produce, including avocados, apples and limes, among others — mitigating food waste is a market opportunity made even more critical by Covid.

To keep fruit lasting longer, Apeel has engineered an edible coating made from plant materials that can make produce last two to three times as long. It has been tested on dozens of different types of fruits and vegetables but is commercially available for avocados, organic apples and citrus fruits (mandarins, lemons, limes, finger limes).

Apeel's protective coating is extracted from lipids that come from the same produce to which the coating is ultimately applied. The water-based solution extends shelf life by preventing oxidation and water loss, from the grocery store to the consumer's home, though due to the proprietary nature of its science, Apeel does not disclose extensive details on the formula.

Earlier this month, the company made its first acquisition: a software start-up named ImpactVision, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to track the chemical composition of food throughout its shelf life.

Apeel's produce is available in the U.S. at Costco, Kroger and Harps grocery stores, and in July, the company partnered with Wakefern Food Corp., bringing their limes to more than 360 supermarkets in the Northeast. Wakefern brand stores include ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market.

The idea has attracted a number of high-profile investors, including Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey and even the World Bank Group, which is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries. In October, the company raised $30 million in new funding from its sister organization, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to support Apeel's expansion into more grocery stores around the world and ability to introduce a wider variety of crop coatings.

Other notable investors include Viking Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, DBL Partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Contributed by Riley de León

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