Marks & Spencer is to become the first UK supermarket to label its fruit using new laser ‘tattooing’ technology instead of traditional paper-based labels.

It has signed an agreement to start trialling the laser technology of Spanish company Laser Food on oranges. M&S would not confirm when the trial will start, but it is expected to kick off in the next few months. It will intially be limited to oranges but could be expanded to other fruit & veg lines.

“It was an interesting concept to try because often fresh produce is stickered, which can be difficult to remove, plus there can be a lot of design changes, so growers can be left with stockpiles of stickers that they can’t use,” said senior agronomist Andrew Mellonie. “From this point of view, the concept would fit in with M&S’s Plan A for sustainability.”

Once the trial had started, M&S planned to introduce PoS to explain the new technology to shoppers, he added.

Laser Food’s technology uses a laser to etch logos, labels and information such as QR codes and use-by dates directly on to the skin of fruit. It offered a “cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative” to paper labels typically used on fruit, said MD Jaime Sanfelix.

The ability to add QR codes could improve traceability and the process used “completely natural products without damaging either the fruit surface or the interior in any way whatsoever,” he claimed.

The technology is already used by Billa in Russia, Biedronka in Poland and Carrefour in France and Spain.