Study Reveals Significant Produce Shelf-life Variability Among Leading Grocery Stores

Zest Labs’ Research Measures and Compares Freshness of Strawberries, Romaine Lettuce and Salad Mixes Purchased at Leading Grocery Stores

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 10, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Zest Labs™, an AgTech company modernizing the post-harvest fresh food supply chain, today released the results of new research study measuring and comparing the shelf-life (or freshness) of produce being sold at major grocery chain stores across the United States. The research found that the freshness of produce – specifically strawberries, romaine lettuce and packaged salad mixes – varied significantly from store to store as well as within each individual store. This shelf life variability causes early spoilage, which can disappoint consumers and result in costly retail waste. Zest Labs is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ecoark Holdings, Inc. (OTCQX: ZEST).

The study, performed from February to May of 2019, was based on random samples of strawberry clamshells, hearts of romaine lettuce and packaged salad mixes purchased throughout the research period from eight major U.S. grocery store chains.

“Zest Labs’ methodology for determining shelf-life is based on years of university research on the effect of environmental conditions on the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Cecilia Nunes, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of South Florida, Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology. “Major universities including University of Florida and University of South Florida have confirmed that this approach is scientifically validated and accurate.”

Consumers often have a disappointing experience when purchasing produce that looks good on the store shelf only to have it “go bad” shortly after purchase. This problem occurs because, due to harvest conditions and variabilities in processing and handling, produce spoils prematurely – before the written expiration date. This leads to consumer dissatisfaction and can lead to changed purchasing behavior, wherein consumers choose a new primary grocery store in search of fresher produce.

Key findings from the research included:

  • Roughly half of the sample produce (49 percent of romaine hearts, 58 percent of purchased strawberries and 54 percent of packaged salad mixes) spoiled prematurely, based on target shelf-life of the days indicated in the chart below, and could lead to customer dissatisfaction.        

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at            

  • Shelf-life variation of produce within individual stores varied dramatically by as much as 21 days for romaine (store 7), 12 days for strawberries (store 3) and nine days (store 2) for packaged salad mixes. This inconsistent freshness experience could lead to customer dissatisfaction. Several stores sold some produce that had expired or spoiled at the time of purchase (as indicated by a zero minimum shelf-life value).

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at           

“Most grocery stores assume that the produce they are receiving has uniform freshness or shelf-life, but the data shows there is significant variation in freshness both between stores in a region and within the individual stores themselves,” said Peter Mehring, CEO of Zest Labs. “This shelf-life variability leads to dissatisfied customers who purchase produce that spoils before they can consume it and, as a result, may take their business elsewhere to find fresher, more consistent quality produce.”

Zest Fresh™, from Zest Labs, helps retailers identify and manage fresh food supply chain variability to improve delivered freshness and reduce shrink by 50% or more, while increasing customer satisfaction by ensuring consistency of the freshness and shelf-life of the produce their customers purchase. Zest Fresh provides growers, shippers and retailers with autonomous, end-to-end cold chain visibility for proactive decision making. By intelligently managing the handling and quality of each pallet of produce beginning in the field, Zest Fresh enables seamless matching of the retailers’ freshness needs with the actual produce freshness while monitoring adherence to the grower’s processes.

More details and information about the research study, causes of shelf-life variation and premature spoilage as well as additional findings are available in the Zest Labs blog or by downloading the complete research report.

About Zest Labs
Zest Labs, a subsidiary of Ecoark Holdings, Inc., provides a growing suite of freshness management solutions that substantially improve quality consistency and drive sustainability for a wide range of clients. Zest Labs provides solutions to modernize the existing food distribution and delivery system by significantly increasing efficiency through continuous condition monitoring and real-time prescriptive analytics, reducing waste by 50percent or more and improving product margins and operational efficiency.

To learn more about Zest Fresh, please click here. To watch a video about Zest Fresh, please click here.

Forward Looking Statements

This release contains forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements concerning the business and possible or assumed future results of operations of Zest Labs; and statements concerning the ability of Zest Labs’ technology to improve delivered quality consistency, significantly reduce perishable food waste, drive sustainability, and increase efficiency in the industry. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements for many reasons including: access to growth capital on favorable terms; adverse economic changes affecting markets we serve; competition in our markets and industry segments; our timing and the profitability of entering new markets; greater than expected costs, customer acceptance of our products or difficulties related to our integration of the businesses we may acquire; and other risks and uncertainties as may be detailed from time to time in our public announcements and SEC filings. Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, they relate only to events as of the date on which the statements are made, and our future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements may not meet these expectations. We do not intend to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this document to conform these statements to actual results or to changes in our expectations, except as required by law.


Investor Relations:    
John Mills   

Media Relations:
Greg Wood
Zeno Group for Zest Labs

Zest Labs is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ecoark Holdings, Inc. (OTCQX: ZEST), to be renamed Zest Technologies, Inc.

Shelf-life Requirements and Customer Experience Grocery Store Shelf-life Comparisons for Strawberries, Romaine and Salad Mixes