Koen Meerkerk and Hugo de Boon met as students at the Willem de Kooning Academy. As a class project, they focussed on finding a use for the nearly 7000 kg of plant waste from the twice-weekly fruit market in Rotterdam. Although vendors in Rotterdam are required to pay to dispose of waste, most is simply left behind. They began collecting unsold fruits from the vendors and experimenting with ways of making edible fruit leather (also known as fruit rollups) to create a leather material for applications in accessories and shoes.
After experimenting with different types of fruit waste, Meerkerk and de Boon determined that mangoes were best suited to the production of their material, also called Fruitleather Rotterdam. This material is intended to be an alternative to animal-based leather.
The process of creating Fruitleather Rotterdam is labor intensive. Unsold mangoes are first collected from the Rotterdam fruit market and pitted by hand. The fruit is then pulped in a large food processor. This soup-like mixture is cooked to evaporate some of the water, prevent fermentation, and kill most bacteria. The resulting paste is spread onto a glass tray in a smooth, rectangular layer and placed in a dehydrator, where the water content is further reduced. These pieces are transported to a separate manufacturing location for coating, embossing, and testing. Most pieces are adhered to polyester backing. Their entire process can be viewed here:
By using local agricultural waste to create their material, Fruitleather Rotterdam takes advantage of a renewable resource. It is likely that their material will score highly in terms of animal welfare, biological waste, and chemical and land use when compared to bovine leather.
Fruitleather Rotterdam has conducted some tests on their material and results are available on their website. A side-by-side comparison to bovine leather would be useful, as would more extensive independent testing.
Fruitleather Rotterdam is available from the company website in 60 x 40 cm (~ 24 x 16 inch) sheets in more than a dozen colors and several embossment options. Most sheets have a polyester backing.
Fruitleather Rotterdam has been used by brands to create:
Laptop case by iamoo https://iamoo.nl/product/mac-laptophoes-fruitleer/
Clutches and other bags and wallets by Luxtra https://luxtralondon.com/collections/mango-collection
Images from Fruitleather Rotterdam.