Therefore, London-based researcher and designer Arina Shokouhi decided to develop an environmentally friendly avocado alternative. Called “Ecovado,” she hopes it will inspire consumers to think twice before cutting into the fruit for breakfast toast or whipping up the next batch of guacamole.
“It can actually be a positive solution and we should just embrace it because we know we can’t keep living like this,” says Shokouhi.
At first glance, the Ecovado is indistinguishable from the real thing. Made with beeswax and natural food coloring containing spinach and charcoal powder, the Ecovado skin mimics avocado skin. The flesh of the alternative fruit is made with four simple ingredients: broad beans as a base, apple for freshness, cold-pressed canola oil for creaminess and a sprinkle of hazelnut. A whole chestnut or hazelnut is used for the pit.
Ecovado was developed as part of Shokouhi’s Material Futures master’s degree at Central Saint Martin’s art school. After coming up with the concept at the end of her first year, she teamed up with University of Nottingham food scientist Jack Wallman, who had been studying the molecular properties of avocados to understand what gives them their creamy texture. It took eight months to perfect the recipe, says Shokouhi.
Creating a sustainable and appealing avocado substitute was a challenge.
“(The choice of) ingredients was very limited to begin with because I want it to be 100% local. That was my first priority,” says Shokouhi, adding that she calls this the “British” version.
But beans are molecularly different from avocados, and it was difficult to mask their “bitter smell,” she says. Eventually, Wallman and his team found ways to balance the ingredients and create a compelling avocado alternative.
While sticking to local ingredients and emphasizing plant-based diets is key to reducing carbon emissions, sustainable food production also intersects with complex issues such as land use, ethical procurement and labor rights, says Dr. Wayne Martindale, Associate Professor in Food Insights and Sustainability at the UK University of Lincoln.
Martindale believes the same could be done for avocados because “people want to know that these avocados have been grown on land that is responsibly managed.”
His team is investigating uses for avocado byproducts, including reusable cutlery made from avocado pits and oils from the peel and pulp for use in lubricants and foods.
Rather than cutting out imported fruits and vegetables entirely, Martindale believes moderation is a step in the right direction. Shokouhi’s Ecovado shows “incredible creativity,” he says, but he questions whether the product can scale to become a viable alternative to importing avocados.
Since graduating, Shokouhi’s product has attracted interest from potential investors, she says. While she’s still perfecting Ecovado, she hopes it will eventually be sold in supermarkets for the same price as real avocados. Shokouhi has also experimented with Japanese edamame beans and is intrigued by the idea of producing Ecovado in other countries using different local ingredients in the future.
She hopes skeptics will give the Evocado a chance.
“The taste might not be 100% exactly like avocado,” says Shokouhi, “but it doesn’t matter as an alternative as long as you can have it on your sourdough and it tastes good and it looks the same and it’s healthy .”