- Pairwise’s first gene-edited greens, under the brand name Conscious Greens, are officially launching in foodservice today. This is the first food product in the U.S. developed with CRISPR technology.
- The Conscious Greens Purple Power Baby Greens Blend is made up of purple and green mustard greens. The company says it has removed the bitterness and made the greens taste more like lettuce. It is co-branded with Performance Food Group’s Peak Fresh Produce offering and is available in select restaurants and outlets in PFG’s network.
- While gene-edited commodity crops are commonplace in the U.S., most previous modifications have been made to improve yields or for crops to be more pest-resistant. Pairwise is using CRISPR to make fruits and vegetables healthier and more desirable to consumers.
Since its founding in 2017, Pairwise has had its sights on using technology to make fruits and vegetables something that more consumers want to eat.
The company works with CRISPR technology, which makes modifications to the plant’s existing genome to effect a variety of changes to fruits and vegetables. The company also is working on pitless cherries, seedless blackberries and greens that are both better tasting and more nutritious.
“Using CRISPR, we’ve been able to improve new types of nutritious greens to make them more desirable for consumers, and we did it in a quarter of the time of traditional breeding methods,” Haven Baker, Pairwise’s co-founder and chief business officer, said in a statement.
Only one in 10 adults in the U.S. eats the amount of vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to 2019 statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not many more — just 12.3% — eat the recommended amount of fruit.
The Conscious Greens brand name debuted in March 2022, when Pairwise served salads with the sweeter, fresher greens to attendees at the Future Food-Tech conference in San Francisco. This is the first time the greens will be available to the general public.
Pairwise says that its process does not add new genes to plants, like traditional genetic modification, which has been used for other commodity crops. Instead, CRISPR works with what’s already in the plant.
Vonnie Estes, vice president of innovation at the International Fresh Produce Association, supported the launch in a statement.
“If we are to reach the goal of doubling the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, offering consumers a wide diversity of fresh products is a must,” Estes said. “It also demonstrates how innovative technology can deliver results for our changing climate.”
Still, considering consumer pushback against genetically modified food — commonly referred to as GMOs — some may be hesitant to try the new greens. Genetically modified crops, researchers say, are as healthy as their traditional counterparts, but consumer confusion about how they were created and what threats they may pose has been common.
But with a start in foodservice, some of Conscious Greens’ barriers to market entry could be reduced. Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ Arctic apple, which has been genetically modified so the fruits don’t brown after being sliced, launched in 2018. The apples have become popular in foodservice, as well as K-12 programs.
After the initial foodservice launch, Pairwise plans to bring Conscious Greens and other items under the Conscious Foods brand to consumers in the grocery channel. A retail launch is planned for later this year.
As for the other items Pairwise has said it was working on, the company’s website says seedless blackberries should be in grocery stores “within the next few years.” Pitless cherries may not be available until the end of the decade, the company says, “because we have to grow a new variety of cherry trees.”