Let’s Rethink How We Measure our Food

 In Blog Post

There’s no good way to measure nutrition 

Our fruit and vegetable nutrient measurement systems are inadequate. They don’t accurately indicate nutrition and therefore don’t meet the expectations of today’s more-informed and empowered consumer. Food companies and retailers need a better way to show customers the “inner qualities” of their food. TeakOrigin has devised a solution.  

Looks/BRIX don’t do it

Most food companies measure fruit and vegetable quality in one of two ways. They evaluate either by looks — does the fruit meet visual standards? Or with BRIX, a tool that cannot accurately tell you the nutritional quality of food, let alone the actual sugar content that it claims to measure. These are the only ways your retailer can access nutritional quality, yet these systems don’t accurately show the true nutrition value of the food. 

Let’s break it down by examining a sample of HoneyCrisp apples. 

Looks aren’t everything

First, we examine appearance. How does it look? What are the physical markers that we think indicate quality? 

Most people have an unconscious inner monologue that leads them to a purchasing decision. For example, is the apple symmetrical? Is the color of each fruit bright and consistent? Is the apple firm, with no bruises or indentations? Essentially, do the HoneyCrisp apples meet expectations of what food retailers and consumers have been taught to think represents good fruit?

TeakOrigin performs a weekly assessment of produce in grocery stores nationwide. We then evaluate the nutritional quality of each fresh item with our proprietary technology that combines analytical chemistry, spectroscopy and machine learning. The data we derive shows that quite often, the fruits and vegetables on our shelves may not meet the USDA or FDA recommendations of nutritional quality. That’s eye-opening isn’t it? A fruit may meet the exact definition of perfect, and still have fewer nutrients than an irregular “ugly” fruit.  

Measure Up

The second way to measure nutrients in fruit is by the Degrees BRIX tool. The intended purpose of BRIX was to predict the amount of sucrose, or common sugar, in a piece of fruit. The amount of sugars a piece of produce has varies widely, depending on genetics, for one, but also on many other factors including seasonal sunlight and temperature, growing practices, soil conditions, and when the fruit is harvested. An apple left on the branch will have a higher nutritional value than one picked for packing and shipping.

But BRIX doesn’t work — even for the thing it claims to measure, sucrose. Commercial BRIX refractometers used by food suppliers and retailers in today’s supply chain actually measure the total quantity of all soluble solids in a piece of fruit. That includes other types of sugar, acids, pectins, carbohydrates, etc. So, while BRIX does indicate sucrose in fruit, it is more specifically a scale of measurement for all soluble solids in liquid. TeakOrigins’ measurement system, though, can see the actual percentage of nutrients…including sucrose. 

What’s in an apple?

Don’t take our word for it, though, let us show you the data. TeakOrigins’ data and science teams tested the nutritional quality of red apples at ten top retailers. We based our findings on an assessment of 2,000 produce samples purchased and analyzed HoneyCrisp apples during August 2020. 

The results are not what you’d expect. At Whole Foods, the actual percentage of nutrition delivered is 76% and the price is $0.32 greater than the average selling price. With Costco, the percentage of nutrition delivered amounts to 71% of the total and the price is $0.40 higher than the average retailer. Finally, of the top 3, Walmart meets 74% of the promised nutrition, yet its price is $0.66 lower than the average price. 

Wouldn’t it be better for food retailers to understand the actual nutritional quality of the food they are buying and selling? TeakOrigin, with its ability to predict and distinguish the specific amount of nutrients in individual food items, can help food companies meet that goal.

Broken system, future solution

The food nutrient measurement system is broken; looks don’t cut it and Brix is not as effective as it needs to be. Food retailers, producers, and distributors today make decisions about produce based on what they believe they are getting, not what they are actually getting. TeakOrigin has the solution to close that gap, helping food retailers purchase the most nutritious foods at the best prices. 

Interested in learning about the nutritional reality of the food you buy and sell?