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How do Supermarkets Store Fruits?

By Ferdi Vol
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If you regularly shop in supermarkets, you might wonder how they keep their fruits and vegetables fresh. Fruits rot so easily and surely supermarkets import many of them from overseas in large quantities. So, how do supermarkets store fruits?

Supermarkets keep their fruits in large refrigerators that are usually located at the backside of the supermarket. Every night a batch of fruits are removed from the refrigerator and placed in a cooler. Then they are placed on sales floor shelves & replaced by a new batch the next morning. Fruits that do not need any refrigeration are kept on display shelves. 

But lots of other questions can come to your mind as well like how old supermarket fruits are or what happens to overripe fruits. Through this article, I am going to answer all of your questions. If you go through the entire article, you might find some surprising and interesting stuff about the preservation tactics of supermarkets.

How Do Supermarkets Keep Fruits Fresh?

The fruits that can be found in supermarkets are either collected from local fruit vendors or imported from other countries. Fruits are harvested in large quantities, often before they ripen because ripe fruits will start to decay in a matter of days or weeks depending on which fruit it is.

After the harvest, these fruits undergo the preservation process which slows down the ripening of the fruits and keeps them fresh.

Then they are sent in ships, cargo aircraft, or trucks equipped with refrigerators so that they don't ripe while in transit. Once they reach the USA, they are delivered to supermarkets and grocery shops. Supermarkets store these fruits in their refrigerator to keep them fresh. When the fruits in their store shelves start decaying, they replace them with a new batch of fruits from their storage. 

How Old Are the Fruits You Buy at Supermarkets?

Do you know how old supermarket fruits are? You might think that the fruits in supermarkets are probably a week old at best. But the truth might shock you. Most of the fruits in the supermarkets are quite old. 

In reality, these fruits are harvested in large amounts, often before they start to ripen, preserved over time, and gradually shipped to grocery stores and supermarkets. For example, apples that we find in the supermarkets can be 6 to 12 months old.

In the case of apples, a coating of edible wax is applied over them as a preservative. This wax not only enhances the appearance of the apple but also slows down the rotting process. This is why apples look fresh on supermarket shelves even if they are 12 months old.

In some cases, chemicals are used as preservatives. The preservation process varies depending on what fruit is being preserved. The preservative that is used for apples may not work for other fruits like oranges, avocados, etc. The main reason for using preservatives is to reduce fruit spoilage and increase profits.

Most fruits are seasonal. Which means that some fruits will grow in some certain season. But you can find these fruits in supermarkets all year round. Fruits will start to decay in a matter of days or even weeks depending on what fruit that is if they are not correctly preserved. So, to ensure year-round availability, using preservatives is the most practical method.

Supermarkets and grocery stores usually buy fruits in large quantities. They have large refrigerators usually located at the back of the store to refrigerate these fruits and keep them fresh. Refrigeration slows down the ripening of fruits. Otherwise, there will be a huge amount of decay and wastage.

Are Supermarket Fruits Safe?

The use of chemical preservatives raises some important questions related to customer health and safety. So, a lot of you must be wondering, If chemical preservatives are used in preserving supermarket fruits, are they harmful to your health?

The answer is no, they are not. These chemicals are FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approved, and these chemicals do not have any harmful effects on our health. So, supermarket fruits are safe to eat.

When it comes to the national value of these fruits according to experts, the difference in the nutritional values between chemically preserved supermarket fruits and organic fruits are not significant. So, there is nothing to worry about. Here organic fruits mean fruits that were just harvested and didn't go through any sort of chemical or other preservation processes.

Why Are Supermarket Bananas Always Fresh?

Bananas easily start to rot if kept in a normal environment. But why are there fresh bananas on supermarket shelves every time you go there? This question must've crossed your mind at least once. The secret lies behind their storing process.

Bananas don’t grow in most areas of the United States. Most of the bananas that you can find on the supermarket shelves are from countries like Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, Costa-Rica, and Guatemala. These countries are the leading banana exporters to the United States.

Bananas are harvested when they are green and before they are imported to the United States, they are washed, undergo a preservation process, and packed in boxes. These boxes are shipped to the United States through cargo aircraft and ships that are equipped with refrigeration facilities.

When these bananas are delivered to supermarkets, they are refrigerated again to slow down the ripening process. These bananas are still green. Before these bananas are placed on the shelf, they are forced to ripen using ethylene gas.

To ripen bananas, they are stored in a sealed room full of ethylene gas. After some time, the ethylene gas is removed from the room, and at the same time, the room is heated with an electric heater. The heat forces the bananas to ripen. These ripe bananas are placed on the supermarket shelves. In this way, supermarkets keep their bananas fresh.

But not every fruit needs to be ripened before placing them on store shelves. Supermarkets replace their fruits that started to decay with a new batch from their refrigerated storage.

Do All Fruits at the Supermarket Need Refrigeration?

The simple answer is no, not all fruits need refrigeration. Some fruits won’t ripen when refrigerated, and some will even if they are refrigerated. Supermarkets normally buy fruits in large quantities. Especially seasonal fruits like avocados, mangos, apricots, etc. and they store them in their cold storage.

Refrigeration slows down the ripening process and that's why stores and supermarkets can meet the all year-round demand of their customers with their fresh fruits.

Citrus fruits like oranges, lime, plum, lemons, clementine, etc. don't need any refrigeration. They are generally kept on supermarket sales floor shelves.

Apples, berries, and pears also do not need any refrigeration. The preservatives are enough to keep them fresh for a long time. But they can be refrigerated. Some fruits should never be refrigerated because they will ripen no matter what. Putting these fruits in cold storage will only make them softer, mushy, and can change the flavor that customers may not like.

What Happens to the Fruits That Are Bruised or Overripe?

Supermarkets buy fruits in large quantities and they put these fruits in batches on their sales floor shelves. But not every product on those shelves is sold. Some of them become overripe and some get bruised because of customers. So, at the end of the day, a fair amount of these fruits goes to waste.

But just by throwing them away to trash means supermarkets will lose money. So, instead of throwing everything away, fruits that are still safe to consume even after the end of their shelf life are repurposed into pre-cut fruits or sent away to the supermarket's juice department or to delis to be repurposed as juice, soup, or salad. In that way, supermarkets make some profit that they would’ve lost by throwing them away to trash.

How do Supermarkets Keep Cut Fruit Fresh?

Supermarket pre-cut fruits are very popular among their customers because they don't have to go through all the washing and cutting. But there is a catch. Pre-cut fruits are usually made from discarded fruits that were overripe and at the end of their shelf life. But throwing away these fruits only means wasting money.

So, instead of throwing them away, supermarkets turn them into pre-cut fruits, and at the same time, they increase the price per pound. So, customers are getting something that has fewer nutrient values and shorter shelf life at a higher cost by buying pre-cut fruits.

But when you are cutting a fruit, that means you are exposing the fruit to oxygen, light, and heat which can accelerate the rotting process. But how are the cut fruits in Supermarkets remain fresh?

Pre-cut fruits are normally stored in refrigerated display cases on the sales floor. And this refrigeration reduces the speed of the natural ripening process of these pre-cut fruits. At the same time, the rotting process also slows down.

Sometimes these pre-cut fruits are coated with edible chemicals and anti-browning agents to reduce the rotting process further, enhance the appearance of freshness, and keep the fruit fresh and bacteria-free. These chemicals are also FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approved. So, these pre-cut fruits are safe to eat.

How Do Supermarkets Keep Fruit Flies Away?

When you are shopping, have you ever seen any flies inside supermarkets? The answer is probably no. Supermarkets take all the necessary precautions to prevent flies rather than getting rid of them when these flies are inside.

The first step to preventing flies is by keeping everything neat and clean. Supermarkets have cleaning staff to keep the shelves neat and clean. Whenever a rotten fruit is identified, they discard them so that these rotten fruits don't attract flies.

Imagine a case where mango is dropped under a counter and nobody noticed. When that mango starts to rot, it will emit a bad smell that can attract flies. In such a case, cleaning staff will remove the source of the smell, deep clean the area with bleach and they will remove any other potential sources that can attract flies. 

The supermarket staff also pay close attention to fruit shelves as fruits rot very quickly. They will discard overripe and bruised fruits daily, wipe the shelves thoroughly so that there is no stray produce juice left on the shelves.

Supermarkets never use chemical pesticides to get rid of flies because these chemicals are harmful to our health. So, all the staff in supermarkets tries their best to keep everything clean and dry to prevent flies.

Some supermarkets use fly traps in their storage space to get rid of any type of bugs. They use sticky bug traps, so whenever a bug sits on the trap it will get stuck. They place these traps in places that are out of customers' sightline.

Supermarkets do an excellent job of keeping their fruits fresh and healthy for their customers. This is why supermarket fruits are the most popular place for buying the freshest fruits. I hope through this article "How do supermarkets store fruit?" I was able to answer at least some of your questions. Be safe. Thank you for stopping by.

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About the Grocery Store Academy
The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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