Going to the store, fruit market or online shopping for fresh produce can sometimes seem like a gamble. Sometimes you get the most delicious and long-lasting fruit and veg, and sometimes the fruit you buy is already bruised and goes rotten within a few days. But is there a science behind picking the right time of the week to increase the quality of produce you buy for you and yours?
The answer is pretty simple, Mondays. But why?
Well, there’s a couple reasons, one being that the main Produce Markets for Sydney are closed every Saturday and Sunday. This means that over the weekends, there is no fresh produce arriving from Sydney’s main Produce Markets. Most farmers and producers ship on Saturday or Sunday, so that their produce arrives fresh to the markets early on Monday mornings. Monday is by far the busiest day at the produce markets, as it is the day that the replenishing of stock occurs for most fresh fruit and veg retailers.
Now this isn’t a definite, if you do your weekly fruit and veg shop on a Monday, it’s not guaranteed to be the fresh produce delivered from the farms over the weekend. Similarly, the fruit markets are replenished midweek, with farm fresh produce, but the supply is limited compared to Monday’s delivery. So, freshness then comes down to where you’re actually purchasing your produce from, and the supply chain behind it.
Let’s have a look at a few different suppliers and how they get their produce.
Seasonality, a thing of the past?
In general, different fruits and vegetables are grown seasonally in Australia based on optimal climate and growing conditions. As consumers we’ve become accustomed to purchasing whatever we want for our kitchen, all year round, instead of seasonally. It’s why you can find Watermelons, Apple and Pears in stock all the time, instead of their respective season. Some produce is the exception, like Bananas, Carrots and Broccoli, which grow year-round. Though in general, if you’re buying produce out of season, it’s likely not Australian Grown, and has come from cold storage or is imported from a country on the other side of the hemisphere, like Chile or Peru.
As consumers of fresh fruit and vegetables, we rarely know what’s in season, as it’s always available. In terms of customer satisfaction with the freshness of produce, consumers that shop at growers and farmers markets were significantly more satisfied with the freshness of their fruit and veg (92%) when compared to customers at Coles and Woolworths (73%).
So why does the fruit in Supermarkets look so good all year round? Anyone that’s ever been fruit-picking will know the difference between fruit off the branch and fruit off the shelf. A freshly picked piece of fruit or veg will be matte with dust and dirt, it might be scratched or scarred, compared to the picture-perfect produce on the shelves in supermarkets. For example, freshly harvested apples can be kept for over a week in the fruit bowl before going soft, whereas apples that have been in cold storage for 10 – 12 months can lose their flavour and texture just a day after purchase. But why the discrepancy and why does it look so good year-round?
Well, that grocery store gloss is actually an artificial fruit wax. When apples leave the orchard or lemons and limes are picked off the tree, they are sprayed with a commercial coating of artificial fruit wax, specifically formulated to impress buyers and to preserve and beautify produce.
The wax itself is made from sugar cane, beeswax and resin. It contains fungicides to inhibit mould growth, control fruit respiration (to delay the onset of ripening) and has a glossy tint to enhance the fruits appearance. Because the coating is water-repellent, it won’t just wash off when your rinse your fruit. So, to get rid of the wax, your only option is to just peel the fruit or buy unwaxed produce at a fresh fruit or farmers’ market. Again, we’re not trying to dissuade anyone from consuming fruit and vegetables due to worries about contaminants or pesticides, the levels of these found in the fruit wax is minimal and not enough to impact the human body, we’re just looking to educate consumers about what goes on during the production of industrial agriculture.
So now, let's have a look at different places to purchase your produce and their individual supply chains.
While Mondays are the optimal day to buy produce from the markets or local fruit grocer, this isn’t the same with large Supermarket Chains. Supermarkets are different, as they have their own separated supply chain, different to that of markets or grocers. Supermarkets place a huge order at the start of a week or month, based on their estimates of customers’ demands.
Supermarkets purchase their produce in such large volumes that they then have to distribute to thousands of their stores across the country. This involves being transported around Australia, passing through multiple distribution and storage centres. Simply put, the more produce you purchase to distribute, the longer it stays in the supply chain. Even if you have the most advanced supply chain system, fresh food still sits for longer periods of time in cold storage, transport or distribution centres.
As produce from Supermarkets cycle around their supply chain for longer, they often use excessive plastic packaging on their products, to extend their shelf life. This means you might purchase an apple from supermarket chains that looks picture perfect, but when you bite into it at home, it’s soft and floury inside, lacking freshness and taste.
The truth is there isn’t a lot of transparency when it comes to Supermarkets. It’s estimated that fresh produce from Supermarkets spends 50% of its shelf life in the supply chain. A 2020 study found that an estimated 18-22% of all fresh produce in Australia is wasted due to inefficiencies in this supply chain, equating to $1.72 billion dollars of loss annually. So, if you’re shopping at a supermarket, ignore the suggestion to buy on Mondays, there is no “best” day to purchase from supermarkets due to their separated supply chain.
Green Grocers and Fruit Stores are similar to the fruit markets, in that they replenish their supplies from the market and their suppliers on Mondays. Again, does this guarantee you’re receiving the freshest produce from their most recent delivery if you shop on Monday? The answer is maybe.
Green Grocers and Fruit Markets often have leftover stock from the week before that they are incrementally trying to sell before their shelf life runs out. If you visit them on a Sunday, you’re potentially looking at purchasing produce that has been sitting there since last Monday. Although farmers, wholesalers and Fruit Markets will still have some sort of cold storage.
Techniques for controlling temperature, humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in storage have been used for decades to slow the fruit ripening process. In cold storage, a gas known as SmartFresh is added to slow the produce’s release of ethylene, a natural compound which triggers the ripening, basically putting the fruit to sleep. It’s not just apples that are kept in cold storage, everything from pears, grapes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, carrots, onions and pumpkins are commonly cold stored as well. This may sound scary, but once the produce is removed from cold storage, the regular ripening process continues, and the gas biodegrades to the point where there is little to no residue on the fruit. But while there is little degradation of the nutritional value in the produce, taste and freshness are significantly impacted.
So, if you prefer to shop at Fruit Markets and Green Grocers, in general Monday is your best bet at purchasing the freshest quality produce but be aware that your fruit has most likely been cold stored! So, purchase your fruit and veg seasonally and avoid shopping at these stores on the weekend.
The Foodlum Way
Farmers harvest, wash and prepare their produce over the weekend, so they can be transported fresh to the fruit wholesale market on Monday mornings. This supply chain and transport system is pretty reliable and expedited, so that produce can reach the markets from the farmgate in less than 24 hours.
So how are we different?
Here at Foodlum, we differentiate from fruit stores and Supermarkets that pre-purchase their wholesale produce based on estimates of their customers demands. We pick out the best available organic produce at the markets on Monday morning, and deliver them straight from the markets to our customers the same morning. There is no middle man, no repackaging or cold-storage, no time stuck in transport. Straight from the market, to your door.
At Foodlum, we personally vet and screen the organic produce upon picking it up. If it isn’t fresh and up to the Foodlum standard, we refund the difference in your order or check with you to see if you’d like a fresher replacement.
We guarantee the freshest and longest lasting produce because we don’t cold store or re-package our organic fruit and veg. The produce comes directly from the market to your front door, on the same Monday morning that we pick it up. We sell our produce in bulk, to ensure that our pricing is competitive and that there is no unnecessary storage and re-packing. The box that the farmers packs it in, is the same box you receive at home, cutting down on packaging, wastage and transport mileage, ensuring you have the freshest quality produce available.
So, that was a lot to take in all at once!
In summary, the best day to purchase fruit and veg is on Monday. If you’re lucky you’ll receive the freshest possible produce from the market that morning. The chances of purchasing farm fresh items from a large supermarket is slim, the huge volume of produce, supply chain and transport chain are too time consuming, leaving you with fruit that looks picture perfect, but tastes sub-par.
We’re not trying to stop you from eating fruit and vegetables from Supermarkets, eating a diverse range of produce is key for any diet, no matter where you’re buying it from. I’m hoping that if you took the time to read this article, you’ll have learned something new and feel a little bit more informed the next time you go to purchase fresh fruit and veg.
Thanks for reading!