A hand holds a mango on which «Migros Organic» has been engraved with a laser.

Laser branding

Organic cuts skin-deep

In Aclens in the canton of Vaud, the company Satori engraves the Migros Organic logo on the peel of mangoes. After a test phase, laser technology will be employed nationwide. Millions of plastic labels will therefore no longer be needed.

From
Pierre Wuthrich
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What we do

The fact that organic tattooed mangos are now on sale in all Migros supermarkets is neither a cosmetic makeover nor a marketing gimmick.

There is an ecological goal behind it, because the Migros Organic logo that is engraved on the surface of the fruit renders the plastic stickers superfluous. These stickers are harmful to the environment and unpopular with customers. In this way, organically grown mangoes can still be clearly distinguished from conventionally cultivated varieties, as required by law.

The tattooing is done by the company Satori, a Migros supplier of exotic fruit and vegetables based in the industrial area of Aclens, between Lausanne and Yverdon-les-Bains. «We are the first company in the country to do natural branding, which is the laser engraving of the skin of fruits and vegetables,» says Valon Morina. The 35-year-old is responsible for ripening and storage and oversees the mechanical process, which is based on laser technology.

After their delivery – by ship from Brazil and Peru as well as by truck from Spain – the fruits are sorted by size, stored in a special room and checked daily for their degree of ripeness. «They must not be too ripe, or they could be damaged during tattooing,» explains Morina.

This is how natural branding works:

Two laser beams get the job done

Satori employee Valon Morina feeds the tattoo machine with containers, each loaded with eight mangoes.

After the selection, things move very quickly. The mangoes are placed in a container in groups of eight and travel on a conveyor belt through the tattoo machines. In order to adjust the laser precisely, the fruits are scanned by height or diameter using a special camera. Then, two laser beams tattoo the Migros Organic logo, at the speed of light, into the skin.

At the output of the machine, each individual fruit is inspected. «It may be that you don’t see the marking so well at this point, but we know from experience that it becomes more intense after two or three hours,» explains team leader Vjolca Hoxha (42). A final inspection is done four days later after the fruits have ripened more. This ensures that the flesh of the fruit has not been damaged.

Five questions for Migros head fruit buyer Mirco Passarelli, who oversaw the mango pilot trial:

Mirco Passarelli, why did Migros choose mangoes and avocados for the first trials with natural branding?

There is only very little packaging for both fruits. It was important for us to take the first steps with fruits that have a relatively thick and thus less sensitive skin. This is true for mangoes and avocados. Basically, we wanted to check the feasibility as well as customer reactions.

«We have received a lot of positive feedback»

Will Migros expand its range of laser-engraved products after this initial positive experience?

We are constantly testing other products. From a technical point of view, you can engrave different fruits and vegetables. However, other aspects such as visibility and customer acceptance must also be taken into account. You could also engrave organically grown ginger, for example, but then you have to make sure that the marking is clearly visible. But this is by no means easy, because the root usually has somewhat inconsistent shapes. When marking edible skin, as in the case of a peach, it is necessary to find out first whether consumers will accept the product.

Since you are talking about the customers. What were their first reactions?

The efforts to eliminate packaging are very well received by customers. We have received a lot of positive feedback, both internally and via social media and the M-Infoline.

Was it possible to make improvements to the natural branding during the test phase?

Yes, we found that the skin can shrink faster in some cases if the Migros Organic logo is engraved in its entirety. Accordingly, optimisations are made with regard to the timing and location of the branding, but also in the design of the logo itself. Optimal visibility and the optical quality of the engraving must always be taken into account.

The tests on the avocados started at the same time as those on the mangoes. Why was this test phase extended by several months?

We found that the organic avocados were more sensitive to the tattooing and more prone to spoilage. But since we believe in natural branding, we will make adjustments to the process as well as to the logo. If successful, we can also roll it out to the whole of Switzerland in the spring.