Volg de versheid en verminder voedselverspilling met Rui Xu

Imagine this: you wake up on a lazy Sunday morning, trudging your way to the fridge only to be welcomed with the smell of something rotting. Did the meat expire sooner than expected? We’ve all been there. Rui Xu, a graduate of the Royal College of Art (RCA), London found herself in a similar situation where she increasingly grew aware of how much food went to waste. In 2011, the Food and Agricultural Organization found that 1/3rd of the food produced globally was lost or wasted in a year alone. Not only is this an environmental concern, but is also proving to be an economic one. FreshTag is Xu’s innovative solution that aims to reduce food waste and its undesirable reactions, especially in human health and wellbeing.

Type Update
Published on 17 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Food
Volg de versheid en verminder voedselverspilling met Rui Xu
Part of Embassy of Food

A materials designer and entrepreneur based in London with a fashion and smart textiles background, Rui Xu set up FreshTag in 2019. “It’s a smart and sustainable packaging startup and I’m currently working at the intersection of design materials, food science and technologies to explore intelligent packaging solutions for food products and to challenge the global food waste issue.” She recognised that a crucial aspect in packaging systems is the need for change from the generic ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dating mechanism to a more adaptable, and dynamic monitoring system. FreshTag is the tool that she proposes that can offer information about the food and environmental conditions in real-time, detecting and indicating food freshness through changes in colour.

“The mechanism behind the technology is just monitoring and reporting the macro-level changes with the biochemical and microbiological changes taking place within the food and to precisely report the exact date of freshness, tracking the change in quality from freshly bought to best before until expiry with visual cues.”
— Rui Xu
Fresh Tag - credits: Rui Xu

The mechanism of the technology lies behind a special ink that changes colour in the presence of ammonia and carbon dioxide using inkjet printing technology. “The reason why we use the inkjet rather than the smart labels or some colour-changing film is that it is easier to. The market accepts you, and it is very low cost to get into the existing packaging industries. The ink can be printed on paper or plastic film, and the system can report the real state of food.”

An interesting way of visualizing dynamic data, FreshTag shifts the focus from unreliable use dates that are often not accurate to visual aids that are scientifically backed. “I think it cannot replace existing date code labelling, but it can be an assistant to help people know the actual date of expiry. It really depends on the storage conditions, the distributions and handlings of the product. It can be an assistant to help people to determine if they can or cannot eat something anymore.”

What fuelled her project was the data research that revealed alarming statistics about food waste. While a third of the food meant for human consumption is wasted every year, the UK remains the largest producer of food waste, wasting almost 7,000,000 tonnes of food every year costing average taxpayers over £700 annually.

With initial funding from RCA, Xu was able to take off her project to a more corporate level. Understanding the importance of policy action in the implementation of FreshTag, Xu is simultaneously working on bringing legislation that allows FreshTag in the market as an aid to the existing date code system. Inspired by Peter Thiel’s book ‘Zero to One’, Xu hopes that one day consumers will be able to buy a FreshTag at the supermarket that can be used at home to test the freshness of their produce.

Read the whole article written by Ruben Baart from Next Nature Network here. And come visit the Supermarket of the Future in the Embassy of Food during Dutch Design Week 2021, where Rui’s prototypes and stories are on show.  

This interview came about as part of the Embassy of Food 2021, one of the World Design Embassies. Curators Annelies Hermsen and Chloé Rutzerveld researched seven projects within seven themes and interviewed designers about technology, food waste, health, education, protein transition, non-food and packaging. Ruben Baart of Next Nature Network turned the interviews into articles.

The Embassy of Food is made possible in part by the DOEN Foundation, Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Albert Heijn and the Dutch Design Foundation.

chapter-arrow icon-arrow-down icon-arrow-short icon-arrow-thin icon-close-super-thin icon-play icon-social-facebook icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube