The consumption patterns of fresh fruit over the past century have been dependent on the availability of methods to ensure that the product reaches the consumer in peak condition. The traditional method for delivery of fruit has been to harvest when under ripe and to try to control the ripening process during the transport phase. The fruit is then delivered and sold whole. However, the demand for fresh cut fruit, which is ready peeled, cored and segmented has soared in the past ten years, led by demand for convenient, natural, high added value foods from affluent consumers and a market aware catering industry. There are approximately 1100 SMEs in the EU who manufacture additive materials and equipment for fruit processing companies. In common with most other SME equipment manufacturers, within the sector, we currently produce equipment designed to take the target fruit whole, to perform a single operation such as skinning or juice extraction. However, we have identified a market opportunity for a novel, integrated processing and preservation system, with which fresh cut fruit may be prepared at the point of harvest, preserved and maintained in a high quality form for the long enough to transport it to the final processor and vendor. Since the production of fruit is both localized and highly seasonal, leading to the requirement for a substantial amount of storage and transportation, there is a tremendous amount of waste associated with the commercial transportation and processing of fruit. Over 280 million Tonnes per annum, of fruit is shipped around the Globe, with EU demand accounting for 28% of that total. Industry estimates are that nearly 40% of the volume of fruit purchased and delivered to processors, from the grower, is discarded for the following reasons: - Unwanted peel and stones stripped from the processed fruit. Unprocessable, Category 2 fruit, that are cosmetically defective. - Unprocessable, degraded fruit. Currently, fruit preparation at the point of harvest is only used for low value destructive processes, such as jam making or canning, since the removal of the fruit's natural protective coating, its skin, initiates and accelerates the decay processes, rendering it impossible to transport in this state. Thus it is not currently possible to prepare fresh cut products at the grower's site for subsequent transportation, to realise substantial cost savings. If peeling, coring and segmenting could be performed at point of harvest, and product transported without significant degradation, the community of 140 SME fruit processors, like Orchard house Foods, could save up to 50 ECU / tonne or a total of 2.5MECU/pa in transport and process waste costs alone. In addition, the 2000 SME fruit growers, in the Union would also be given the rare opportunity to add value to their products, by offering part processed products, boosting their existing sales of 30 Bn ECU/pa, by around 10%. Likewise, processing materials and equipment suppliers would be provided with an entirely new application market for our systems, worth an estimated 2 MECU/pa. As the market for fresh cut fruit continues to grow at over 25% per year, both the European growers and processors risk losing market share as competitors, from outside the EU, continue to develop methods of extending fruit life under protracted transport conditions. Our proposed research is in response to the urgent industrial need to develop a European process solution to provide a method by which fruit growers can part process and protect fruit products from the decay mechanisms that occur within the transit and storage process. By this means they can generate transport cost savings, add value to their products and develop higher quality product offerings to further stimulate this buoyant market.
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
53557 Bad Honningen
NN17 2SW Corby
LE13 0PB Melton Mowbray - Leicestershire
50250 Bet Dagan
HD4 7EZ Huddersfield