APAL’s Richelle Zealley explores the world of value-added products and talks to the Food Revolution Group to find out how they are developing high value fruit-based products and working with growers to increase their profitability.
Innovation brings new products, packaging, brands and marketing that creates opportunities to present apples and pears in new and more profitable forms. Yes, there will always be whole fruit that we love to bite into for a crisp, juicy and refreshing snack. But apples and pears could also be converted into shelf-stable staples to replace or complement flour, be the fibre component of a new product targeting better gut health, or be the key ingredients for increasingly popular snack bars – just to name a few.
Alternative paths to market
With ample supply and low domestic prices for fresh apples and pears, alternative paths to sell and market fruit and its derivative products could turn out to be a profitable option for growers. Many growers are already ‘value adding’ to their fruit, such as via juicing, cider and building their own brands, but there are opportunities out there far beyond these.
One opportunity for industry is to find new markets where our produce can be used as a core ingredient and bring new health benefits. For example, many Australians are not consuming the recommended amount of dietary fibre each day. The by-product of apple and pear juicing is packed with fibre. Turn that into a flour or purée and it can be used as a key ingredient in cooking, potentially helping Australians reach their recommended daily intake.
This is also a great way to improve margins on lower grade fruit through products such as apple or pear fruit bars, vinegars, ciders, chips and purées. There’s an entire range of products in the value added market that could be explored and offered both locally and internationally.
Australia has an opportunity to build on its international reputation for clean, green quality produce and utilise its large pool of skilled development technologists to deliver the next wave of new ideas. Extend this to a range of value added commodities, and the opportunities could be endless.
Revolutionising the industry
Apple and pear delegates at the 2016 National Horticulture Convention had the opportunity to hear Jonathan Middis, Chief Technical Officer from the Food Revolution Group present on Value added opportunities for apples and pears. His company takes a range of fruits and extracted nutrients, fibres and more to make them into a range of saleable juices, smoothies, fibres (similar to Metamucil), infused fruit pieces, beverages and functional ingredients using a portfolio of patented technologies.
They believe that new thinking is required to address the current issues facing the food industry.
“Increasing costs of production, continuous price pressure from retailers, and a relentless appetite from consumers for healthier diets means growers and processors need to adapt in order to grow,” Jonathan said.
Companies like the Food Revolution Group have come about in response to consumer dissatisfaction with the lack of product innovation as well as their increasing awareness of the many additives, preservatives and the perceived lack of ‘real’ and ‘natural’ food in the convenient, packaged products they currently purchase from the supermarket.
One product on display at the Convention was unmilled pear fibre. Like an oat cluster in appearance, the fibre can be used for a range of culinary options, such as an alternative for schnitzel breadcrumbs, in a smoothie or to replace oats in baking.
“This product is a great offering for someone with a gluten or grain intolerance as the fibre offers texture, nutrition and substance,” Jonathan explained. “This product is also available in a milled form where it is quite similar in appearance to flour – and of course, can be used as a flour substitute.”
The Food Revolution Group produce an apple and an orange fibre that are currently sold in Coles as Hi-Fi, a 100% Natural Dietary Fibre and a competitor to Metamucil. This product can be used as a flour substitute, but is a little denser than flour so quantities need to be adjusted when cooking.
Helping consumers be healthier
Fibre is found in a range of foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrain products, legumes, nuts and seeds. The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends people eat at least 25-30 grams of fibre each day. But, according to Jonathan, very few Australians are actually consuming this amount.
To put this into context, a medium-sized unpeeled apple contains just over 4 grams of fibre while a pear contains just over 5 grams. The average amount of dietary fibre in a 1 tablespoon serving of Metamucil is 3 grams, whereas the same serving size of Hi-Fi contains 3.7 grams. The main difference between the two products is that Metamucil contains sucrose, psyllium husk, citric acid, natural and artificial flavour, whereas apple fibre is the sole ingredient in Hi-Fi.
According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, dried fruits commonly contain preservatives such as sulphites (220-228) that can trigger allergic reactions in asthmatics and some children may get more than the recommended daily intake of them. The dried fruit products developed by the Food Revolution Group only use fruit ingredients. To make them more flavoursome, exciting and enticing, they also have the technology to infuse the products with other juices and spices including cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry, apple and blackcurrant.
Following Jonathan’s presentation, delegates were shown how the fibre could be used at afternoon tea. High-fibre muffins made using apple fibre and dices (little pieces of dried, diced apple with no additives) were served. They were delicious, not too dense or dry, and it was not obvious that a flour substitute had been used.
Less waste, more profit
Recently in New Zealand, a University of Auckland PhD student Ninna Granucci made international headlines with her development of a new nutrient-rich, high-protein, low-calorie apple flour. According to the New Zealand Herald, Ninna received queries from people and businesses around the world about the flour including: supermarkets looking to stock the product; vegans and gluten-intolerant people; cafés looking for new, innovative products; and apple processing companies who are currently sending their waste to landfill.
In 2015, FoodBev Media, a global company that reports on international food and drink innovations and trends, said the total functional flours markets could grow beyond a value of US$800 billion by 2019. It is already apparent in Australia that this is an opportunity – walk through the baking aisle of your local supermarket or health food store to see the great potential for this type of value added product. We can already purchase flour made from coconuts, chickpeas, rice, soy, arrowroot, almond, pumpkin seeds, etc. Why not add apples and pears to this list?
The beauty of these types of products is that there’s limited waste. Think about juicing – after you’ve extracted the juice from the fruit, you’re left with pomace. This can be utilised for stock feed or, alternatively, turned into a fibre or flour for cooking, which may increase any profit you’re making on it, or even just cut disposal costs. Money saved is money earned.
Opportunities for growers to be more involved
Growers already typically send their lower grade fruit to be juiced, and it makes sense to look for alternative uses for this type of fruit.
The Food Revolution Group started operations at the Mill Park, Victoria, site in May 2014 and have certainly grown since then. They are now in a position to produce commercial quantities of fibre, slices, dices and juice. They received recognition for their work in 2015 when they won the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Award for food and fibre processing for their manufacturing process.
They are currently working with some growers in the Goulburn Valley who supply them and are in discussion with others to discuss ideas and future value added products.
“We are always looking to develop relationships with growers and the timing of supply is managed through forecast and strategic planning,” says Procurement Manager Randall Dow.
“We are also open to working with growers to develop new ideas – they have the fruit, know what to do with it, and we have the technology. We see the importance and opportunity to work with growers to develop new products and channels away from juice.”
There may also be an investment opportunity for growers looking to work with the Food Revolution Group, depending on the nature of the relationship.
“If the grower just sells us apples or pears and we fund everything else, they just get the price of the fruit that we buy. But, if we do things together we share the profits. We are also happy to look at joint ventures,” Randall adds.
To help identify and commercialise these new ideas, the Food Revolution Group have developed a separate business, Defugo, to focus on new technical innovations. The team, led by David Coleman, is actively looking for growing partners to co-develop new product ideas.
Working in partnership means that both parties contribute to the project and both can gain financial benefits of their efforts.
Sales and new business opportunities: Justin Nikolovski, email@example.com or 03 9882 1451 ext 902
Fruit supply: Randall Dow firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 9982 1451 ext 903; or Jonathan on 0419 315 671.