In recognition of the key role that fruits and vegetables play in human nutrition, food security and health, the United Nations has named 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. In this article, we look at the six key action points the UN has identified, and tell you what kencko is doing to support them.
“Fruits and vegetables have multiple health benefits, including the strengthening of the immune system, that are essential for combating malnutrition in all its forms and overall prevention of non-communicable diseases.”
Nutritional deficiencies aren’t just an issue in low-income countries. Nine out of ten Americans and three in four Europeans don’t eat the minimum recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and only one in 20 Americans eats enough fiber. Our eating patterns have tragic consequences: diseases brought on by poor diet are the leading cause of death in the United States.
At kencko, we take the health benefits of fruits and vegetables seriously. Central to our mission is a team of Registered Dietitians: they are closely involved in the development of our products, ensuring that we can offer shelf-stable fruit and vegetable options with the maximum possible nutritional value. They also work with our content team to produce free resources that anyone can use to learn more about nutrition and find ways to integrate more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Finally, they offer tailored, 1-to-1 nutrition coaching to all our members as part of their subscription: a tried and tested way to get on track, and stay on track, with healthy eating habits.
“Fruits and vegetables should be consumed in adequate amounts daily as part of a diversified and healthy diet.”
You’ll often hear us talk about “getting your five-a-day.” If you’re not familiar, that’s based on the widely accepted finding that people start to see significant health benefits once they consume at least five 80g servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Eating more fruits and vegetables is strongly associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, eye and brain disorders and some types of cancer. It can also reduce the risk of premature death by around 30%. It’s important to stress that five servings is the recommended minimum: the benefits continue to mount up all the way to 8-10 servings a day.
We all know that, even with the best intentions, it’s not easy to eat enough fruits and vegetables. For people with busy schedules and tight budgets, planning and preparing meals with a wide variety of fresh produce is not always an option. At kencko, we’re interested in removing the friction that stops you from getting your five-a-day: it’s our job to make fruits and vegetables easier to store and transport, and faster to prepare and eat. We’re not out to replace fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet: instead, we want to be the extra boost that gets you past five-a-day.
“The high perishability of fruits and vegetables needs special attention to maintain their quality and safety through appropriate treatment and handling across the supply chain from production to consumption in order to minimize loss and waste.”
Even though the US produces and imports more than enough fruits and vegetables for every American to eat at least five-a-day, that isn’t happening. One reason for that is waste. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, just over 50% (by edible mass) of our fruits & veggies never make it to the table. Broadly speaking, 20% are lost at the farm during growing & harvesting, 10% are lost post-harvest but pre-consumer (due to grading, transportation, retail waste etc.) and 20% are thrown away by consumers after purchase. When you average out consumer waste across the population, it’s equivalent to each person in the US throwing away 2 ½ lb of fruits and vegetables every week.
Fruits and vegetables are the most wasted category of food, because they’re delicate and perishable. They need careful handling, and in many cases extra packaging and refrigeration, in order to reach the consumer intact and still edible.
“Innovation, improved technologies and infrastructure are critical to increase the efficiency and productivity within fruits and vegetables supply chains to reduce loss and waste.”
Food waste starts on the farm, continues in storage, transit and retail environments, and finishes in your crisper drawer. kencko’s answer to this is to press “pause” on perishability, so that the produce is still good when you’re ready to eat it. We use a flash-freeze, slow-dry method to lock in nutrients soon after harvest and extend shelf life without the need for added preservatives. Because this method removes all the water from fruits and vegetables, they become up to 10 times lighter, more compact, and much less fragile. Suddenly, there’s no need to worry about wastage during its onward journey: for every 50lb of edible fresh produce leaving the farm, freeze-drying saves around 15lb from ending up on the compost heap.
According to our rough calculations, kencko’s innovations mean that 25-30% more of the fruits and vegetables that leave the farm eventually make it into your belly, rather than being wasted.
“Sustainable and inclusive value chains can help increase production, help to enhance the availability, safety, affordability and equitable access to fruits and vegetables to foster economic, social, and environmental sustainability.”
We’re proud to be a Certified B Corporation®. It helps us to hold ourselves to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
There’s a rigorous reporting process covering all areas of our operations – from ethical supplier relationships to office waste – and our status is reviewed every three years.
A key element of this process is a commitment to maintaining a sustainable and equitable supply chain, where no one is treated unfairly, and where profits are distributed in a way that encourages environmental stewardship rather than exploitation of natural resources. We keep a close watch on all our supplier relationships to make sure we’re living up to these standards.
“Cultivating fruits and vegetables can contribute to a better quality of life for family farmers and their communities. It generates income, creates livelihoods, improves food security and nutrition, and enhances resilience through sustainably managed local resources and increased agrobiodiversity.”
As a Certified B Corporation®, kencko is committed to using the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. This all starts with the people who grow our ingredients: mostly small- to mid-scale farmers, many using traditional farming methods that work with the land and respect the soil.
For example, our banana farmers in Kerala grow a native, disease-resistant variety in the same plots as their coffee, mango, ginger, jackfruit and chili crops. This “intercropping” method harnesses the innate properties of each plant to increase yield and reduce the need for pesticides: banana trees shelter the shade-loving coffee bushes, whose caffeine content acts as a natural insecticide for other fruits and spices. Our coffee comes from a co-operative of organic smallholders in Uganda; by organizing as a collective, they have ensured a more stable income for individual farmers and increased their bargaining power to secure better prices for their premium-quality coffee beans. We are so grateful to the hard-working people who grow produce for us.By bringing you their stories as well as their delicious crops, we can help to create awareness of the crucial role of family farmers in both local and global food systems.