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FreshStrips are low-cost, easy-to-read stickers that get attached on the outside of food pallets-boxes and changes color if the food is exposed to unsuitable temperatures during transportation.

  • FreshStrip prototype: On the right, the FreshStrip has been exposed to critical heat and switched.

  • 2min video explaining our design and why we should win

    2min video explaining our design and why we should win

  • Spectrometer in which we measure the color change of the printed materials.

  • Post-processing equipment

  • Our first ink-jet printer which was used initially.

What it does

We improve food safety and reduce food waste with the FreshStrips which are simple stickers that get attached on the outside of food pallets-boxes and change color if the food is exposed to unsuitable temperatures during transportation.

Your inspiration

Over 10% of the global annual food waste which costs $1 trillion and contributes 4.4 Gt of CO2 occurs inside the supply chain and costs significantly to producers and retailers (FAO). On the other hand, 32.6% of all food-borne outbreaks in Europe are related to heat exposure (EFSA). In the USA according to the CDC: “each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages”, largely due to consuming badly stored food. Our mission is to make food safer through better monitoring while at the same time reducing food waste. For this effort we have enlisted the help of Merck, Avery Dennison and Metro supermarkets.

How it works

The FreshStrip is a thin (<6 micrometres) layer of liquid crystals printed on a plastic/paper adhesive label. The liquid crystals form a helical structure at a nanometre scale. When this structure is exposed to high temperatures for a specific amount of time (both of which we can calibrate) it expands which causes an irreversible shift in color from green to red. Our food chemists define storage temperature per food category and our engineers customize our FreshStrips. Currently we are focused on chilled meat, poultry, fish stored at around 4C which require minimal customization. The FreshStrips get attached on the outside of food boxes. If during transportation these boxes are exposed to unsuitable heat the FreshStrips switch color and act as an alarm for potential food-borne outbreaks. On the other hand, if only a handful of boxes in a shipment are heat-affected we save the rest of the boxes from being discarded as they would be currently.

Design process

Initially we envisioned FreshStrips as a consumer packaging solution based on scientific research on liquid crystalline sensors and food safety, conducted at the SFD Lab of the Technical University of Eindhoven (spin-off from Philips) and the Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology of the National Technical University of Athens. After discussions with supermarkets (Ahold, Lidl, Carrefour) we pivoted towards transportation packaging as this requires less regulatory approvals and entails less risks for supermarkets. We conducted three iterations of printing materials and testing their color response to specific temperatures to examine if they fit specific food profiles before we created our current patent-protected, tunable technology. We then conducted two additional iterations to make our molecules and solvents compliant with relevant regulations. Finally, we tested ink-jet (Fujifilm) and flexographic (Flint Group) printing technologies with the collaboration of the leading companies in their respective fields and determined that flexographic printing is the most reliable way to scale up our production. This July we finished building our flexographic printing line at TUE (capacity of 1000 FreshStrips/day) and secured an agreement for a pilot with Metro Supermarkets.

How it is different

FreshStrips have the most distinct and vivid colours in the market which is optimal for visual inspections. Our liquid crystals are extensively used in our various screens and have demonstrated results and scalability. FreshStrips cost below 0.03 Euro/item which allows for continuous monitoring of every box instead of only monitoring the transportation vehicle as is currently done. Competing technologies include diffusion-based time temperature indicators (3M), electronic data loggers and RFID (Avery Dennison) and irreversible thermochromic inks (Chromatic Technologies Incorporated). 3M’s MonitorMark costs above 1.5 Euro per item due to the cost of materials. Thermochromic inks are very cheap cheap but their colour change is often minimal, unreliable and thus confusing to the user. Avery Dennison’s TT Sensor Plus is difficult to use/maintain, do not allow for simple visual inspection (as is the case for RFIDS) and is very expensive (around 25 Euro per item).

Future plans

First, we want to optimize our production line for minimum cost and maximum throughput. Following this we will be testing our design with Metro as well as other roll-out clients and making implementing design changes to make our product as easy to read as possible. Following this we intend to add new features to the FreshStrips such as humidity sensing. Just by adding humidity sensing we can start addressing the dried and powdered food market. Our ultimate vision is to create a “universal FreshStrip” which measures all possible mitigating factors to food quality including heat, humidity, PH, etc.


We have won the Displaying Futures Award by Merck, The Get in the Ring, the MIT Enterprise Forum competition, the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award (>1200 applicants), “Best Dutch Chemistry Startup Award 2017” which was awarded to us by Prince Constantijn and Prof. Feringa (Nobel in Chemistry) and we’re part of MassChallenge.

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