The world of fashion is an ever-evolving one with new designs and new materials coming out everyday. Things like compostable plastics made from corn have also changed the way people think about using food in manufacturing. Combined with an increase in veganism, these trends have led to the creation of many different plant-based leathers. Unlike polyurethane or PVC materials, plant-based leathers use natural ingredients as the base of the product and for one company this all starts with fresh mangoes.
A young company in the Netherlands is now using unsellable mangoes as the basis for their fruit leather. Of course that phrase means something totally different in other parts of the world where sweet-tart, edible fruit that’s been dried is a popular snack that goes by the same name. Instead the founders of Fruitleather Rotterdam envisioned using the precious pulp to make leather-like fabric.
The mangoes come from a produce importer and are wastage that cannot be sold. The reuse of something that would otherwise go to in the garbage is a motivating factor in getting the formulation just right. Owners Koen Meeker and Hugo de Boon initially tried other fruits like watermelon without success until they tried mangoes.
The Netherlands is a large importer of mangoes, which only grow in tropical areas. Despite the huge demand for the flavorful fruit, there is still quite a bit that goes to uneaten. The Fruitleather owners collect 1500 unsellable mangoes a week and send the fruits through a de-seeding machine before mixing in the additives that will harden the pulp into a useable product.
The gloopy mixture is baked on trays and when done is then sent to a leather specialist to be pressed, coated, and embossed for durability and style. Different varieties of mangoes produce different colors of fruit leather. After that the sheets can be made into bags, wallets, and shoes.
This type of material is more eco-friendly than plastic leathers or real leather, but it does have some downsides. The sheets can only be made in small sizes at the moment and the durability is not as strong as with real leather. However, a growing trend for leathers made from cork, cactus, pineapple, mushrooms, and other plants means that new technologies may enable more longevity with these leather alternatives in future.