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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Laser Branding Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Literally branding food. Not in the sense of creating brand associations between a product and the values it reflects, but branding like cowboys did with their cattle. Now you can brand fruits and vegetables with thick skins using lasers. Way cool.

A commercial printing client of mine brought this process to my attention, so I did some research and came up with some questions.

First of all, ever since I grew up watching Star Trek and other science fiction shows in the 1960s, I knew that lasers could burn objects in a focused manner with pinpointed accuracy. Over the past several years I have also seen this technology used to die cut everything from wood to printed paper products. And I have also seen videos of lasers used in other finishing operations at commercial printing shops.

At the same time I have read about recent trends in packaging, which seems to be a hot sector for commercial printing. (In fact, this is especially true for digital printing, given the ability to personalize labeling with this technology, the current focus on shorter runs of manufactured products (not necessarily limited to food products), and the growth of smaller prepared (or almost prepared) meals.

So digital custom printing has been an ally in this arena, particularly as it pertains to the labeling and branding of food items, both in the sense of identifying the items and also in the sense of providing a tone, value, or even atmosphere of relevant attributes you can sense when you pick up a banana or avocado.

In this light I was intrigued by the concept my client brought to my attention of using lasers to brand thick-skinned fruits and vegetables. Mind you, if you look at online photos of this process, you’ll see that the branding seems to have been done without the application of food-safe inks. These brands seem to be just images burned into the fruits and vegetables.

A Description of the Process

One article I found in my research was entitled “Finally, An Alternative to Plastic for Labeling Organics,” written by Anabela Linke and printed in the plastic packaging section of It’s not a new article (5/6/18), but it gives you a good idea of some of the benefits provided by this approach, and it includes some photos that show exactly what the process provides in terms of readability, contrast with the background, etc.

To begin with, digital laser branding of fruits and vegetables fulfills the requirement that all organic produce be labeled. It also does this while reducing the amount of plastic consumed. After all, no extraneous materials need to be added, such as stickers or plastic wrapping of bulk food, if you can burn information directly into the skin of the produce.

In terms of waste, Linke’s article notes that “in Germany, for example, the amount of packaging that ends up in the bin every year has recently increased 2 percent to 18.2 million tons, according to the German Federal Environmental Agency” (“Finally, An Alternative to Plastic for Labeling Organics”).

The article goes on to note the ever-increasing amount of plastic used to protect produce and to package smaller portions of take-out food.

In response to this challenge, a Netherlands laser tech firm called Eosta developed a packaging technology called “natural branding” (“Finally, An Alternative to Plastic for Labeling Organics”). This is exactly what the name implies, and it does not adversely affect the appearance, taste, longevity, or durability of the fruits and vegetables it adorns. These particular products, however, need to have a “hard shell” (“Finally, An Alternative to Plastic for Labeling Organics”). This would include everything from avocados to kiwis to cucumbers to potatoes to ginger roots (as reflected in the photos accompanying the article). It would not include such produce as grapes (too small) or citrus fruit (the oils in the fruit will bring back the fruit’s original color even after the laser has burned the brand into the orange peel, for instance).

Who Is Interested?

There’s definite interest, since shoppers for the most part want to reduce the waste added to the planet. However, as noted in Linke’s article, many consumers want assurance of the following:

  1. The produce won’t cost more.
  2. The branding mark won’t be a health hazard.

It seems that both of these are true, the first because the cost of the labels initially used (stickers and/or plastic packaging) would be replaced by the cost of the laser branding process, and the second, because the thick skins of appropriate produce will protect the inner fruit from the superficial laser mark (and the skins of the fruits and vegetables can just be peeled away).

Another benefit of this technology that interests potential consumers is that it allows for smaller portions, which is relevant to smaller family units and singles. You don’t have to buy a bag of avocados and worry that some will become too ripe when you can buy one avocado, or two, at a time. This means less food will go in the trash.

My Questions

These are the questions that come up for me as I consider the article and the accompanying photos:

    1. Will the laser mark without accompanying food-grade inks be prominent enough to capture the consumer’s interest? After all, in a grocery store, the product packaging from one company competes with that of all the others. Sometimes there’s so much to see that you miss things. Standing out is a necessity for brand labeling of any kind.


    1. Can the laser branding be accompanied by food-grade inkjetting to bring more color into the overall look of the product, if needed? It seems to me that this would be easy enough, since both the laser branding and the inkjetting are processes driven by digital data.


    1. Are these questions I’ve asked even relevant, given that current labels on avocados, for instance, are often much smaller than the laser branding shown in “Finally, An Alternative to Plastic for Labeling Organics”? Think about the little white labels that say “organic,” or consider the quarter-sized stick-on labels affixed to bananas. If the laser branding image is large enough, even without extra color (they do have some color, presumably from the burning process), the mark may actually catch the eye more immediately than even a printed label.


  1. Will the novelty of the process entice consumers to buy, particularly since it is obviously a more earth-friendly process than plastic wrapping or stick-on labeling? And will this “wow” factor wear off as people become accustomed to seeing laser-branded fruits and vegetables?

More than anything, this shows that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are constantly looking to the customer to see what she or he wants and to figure out ways to use new technologies to fill these consumer needs. It also bodes well for digital (as opposed to analog) manufacturing and custom printing processes, and it leaves open a lot of possibilities for personalization, short runs, freshness dating, and so forth.

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