Avocado alternative developed with British ingredients to tackle unsustainability of the fruit
Image credits: Arina Shokouhi
Environmentally conscious shoppers may be able to enjoy the taste of an avocado without burdening the planet in the future, thanks to a new invention called the Ecovado.
The Ecovado was developed by Arina Shokouhi, a recent graduate in Material Futures at the University of Arts London’s Central Saint Martins college.
Avocados have become a “modern-day cultural icon” according to Shokouhi. However, they are an incredibly energy- and resource-intensive food to produce.
Each avocado requires 320 litres of water to grow and can only be grown in certain climates. To meet global demand, the fruit is often produced on plantation-style monoculture farms, which drive deforestation and damage biodiversity.
Additionally, although they are exported widely around the world, avocados are notoriously difficult to ship because of how delicate they are. Many become damaged in transit and never make it onto supermarket shelves.
Wanting to tackle these issues, while still giving consumers the taste of the fruit they love, Shokouhi worked with food scientist Jack Wallman from the University of Nottingham’s Food Innovation Centre to produce the Ecovado.
“Ecovado is an alternative to avocado that employs design thinking to help consumers reduce the amount of avocado they eat by introducing them to unfamiliar, yet more diverse, ingredient combinations,” said Shokouhi.
“It was designed by identifying the chemical elements of avocados and the functionality of each molecule to try to find equivalents from more local and low-impact sources that do not rely on threatened crops.”
The primary ingredients within the Ecovado are broad beans, hazelnuts, apple and rapeseed oil. The ingredients were chosen over others – for example rapeseed oil instead of olive oil – because they’re all easily farmed and found in Britain and thus come with a significantly lower environmental impact than the traditional avocado.
Ascertaining the perfect recipe to replicate the taste of an avocado was a challenge, according to Shokouhi. She told Dezeen: “The flavour of avocado is quite subtle and, overall, is most often described as ‘creamy’.
“On the other hand, broad beans can contain quite a lot of bitter compounds called tannins and can have a beany flavour caused by lipoxygenase. To reduce the bitterness, we reduced the amount of broad beans in the recipe.”
The addition of hazelnuts helped to bring fats into the product, further boosting its creaminess, while also introducing the avocado’s trademark nuttiness.
Finishing off the fruit is a skin made of wax, and a whole nut in place of the usual avocado stone.
Though this iteration of the Ecovado uses British ingredients, future versions could use recipes tailored on where they are produced and enjoyed.
“Human ingenuity has made it possible to create all kinds of fakes and simulations that are so convincing that they are hard to distinguish from what they imitate,” said Shokouhi. “Ecovado is an imitation that tries to improve upon reality, not merely reproduce it. And, hopefully, it will fool even the most sensitive of hipster tastebuds.”