Sector News

Fruit and vegetable focus: Waste-reducing ingredients, ethical sourcing and provenance at the core of sustainability

June 24, 2023

Companies developing products and solutions from fruit and vegetables are facing some difficulties relating to the unpredictability of nature and climate change and higher costs and rising levels of inflation. But they are innovating around these challenges with new upcycled ingredients that combat food waste, a greater focus on sustainable sourcing and strengthening relationships with partner growers and agronomists to ensure a stable supply chain and a high standard of fresh produce.

SVZ recently bolstered its green agricultural methods and focus on fighting food waste. The company now redirects tomatoes that are too ripe for the fresh market and ordinarily would head to landfill to its processing plants in Belgium, where they are transformed into a tomato puree ingredient.

“We are always seeking to evolve and build on our existing product portfolio to offer as wide and high-quality a range as possible to our customers. In the coming months, we are expecting to expand our tropical fruit offering and add in more yellow fruits such as apricots and peaches – providing a world of innovation opportunity for F&B manufacturers,” Johan Cerstiaens, commercial director, SVZ, tells Food Ingredients First.

“Following the launch of our waste-reducing tomato puree ingredient, we are also keen to explore how else we can reduce the waste of perfectly tasty fruits and vegetables in the future.”

“Consumers want ethically-sourced foods and beverages with a transparent supply chain and minimal environmental impact. In fact, 42% of consumers report considering environmental impacts when making a purchasing decision, showing that for manufacturers, sourcing sustainable fruit and vegetable ingredients – and analyzing their provenance – is becoming crucial.”

Sustainable sourcing
Sustainable production of fruit and vegetables is a key trend for consumers, and global research suggests it is unlikely to be overridden by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, echoes Lorraine Jansen, communications specialist at Exberry by GNT.

Exberry Coloring Foods are produced from fruit and vegetables to provide a highly sustainable solution for manufacturers and consumers seeking natural, clean label food coloring alternatives.

They are created using traditional physical processing methods such as chopping, filtering and boiling – the same methods consumers use at home. In the EU and many countries around the world, this means they are classed as food ingredients rather than additives.

Natural colors from fruit and vegetables
Exberry by GNT is constantly pushing the boundaries of possibilities with sustainably produced natural colors from fruit and vegetables. “We recently launched our breakthrough, carrot-based Exberry Compound Red range, which enables the creation of clean label, red meat alternatives that change color during the cooking process,” continues Jansen.

“When cooking plant-based products made with Exberry Compound Red, the product will start off looking like raw meat, then change to a rare, medium, or well-done appearance when heated. Mimicking the appearance and behavior of animal protein has long been a challenge for manufacturers and is important for maximizing plant-based products’ appeal, particularly for consumers who also eat meat. This solution also chimes with the 69% of consumers worldwide for whom it’s essential that meat substitutes are naturally formulated.”

Melanie Sturm, global market & consumer insights manager at Agrana Fruit, agrees that sustainability is vital in the fruit space, noting the upcycled initiatives going on at the company.

“Some developments we see here are the use of upcycled fruits or local fruits. Our daughter company Dirafrost has added a fruit puree made of the cocoa fruit to their portfolio.”

“This sweet and slightly tangy puree is a great way to use the white pulp around the cocoa beans for a food product. In various regions of the world, we also work with our customers and suppliers to provide limited edition products with only local fruits inside or fruits with a specific heritage or origin,” she tells Food Ingredients First.

Naturality and health
Naturality and health are also big topics, notes Sturm, stressing the continuous innovation to achieve gentler fruit processing and cleaner labels in the preparation of fruit.

SVZ, meanwhile, is seeing a growing appetite for beverages, particularly juices, as consumers seek healthier alternatives to sodas with high levels of refined sucrose or artificial sweeteners.

“Fruity yogurts, ice cream and other dairy-based desserts are also highly sought after, as well as baked goods such as cakes and savory snacks. Finally, baby food pouches with fruit and vegetable ingredients incorporated are proving very appealing for parents, who want to avoid added sugar in favor of more nutritionally balanced options,” Cerstiaens says.

Agrana Fruit is observing some other trends, including “fusion foods leading to sweet & salty flavor pairings.”

“The demand among consumers for fusion foods that stand out and combine different flavor profiles is constantly increasing, mainly driven by the younger generations of Millennials and Gen Z, who are getting more adventurous with their food. How this plays out with fruits is that we see a combination of fruit with sea salt or spices. Imagine a juicy lemon ice popsicle with a pinch of sea salt or chili,” Sturm explains.

Refreshment & zest
As the hot season approaches for many, “fruits for refreshment” is also increasing, where fruit can add refreshment to yogurts, ice creams or beverages.

“One fruit trend linked to refreshment we observe, especially in yogurts, is the “citrus wave.” Product launches with citrus fruits are growing. We observe product launches with combinations of two or more citrus fruits like lemon lime or a combination with honey, ginger, or botanicals.

The formats of the fruits in these products vary too: it could be nice zesty pieces of lemon or orange peel, a tangy lemon lime mousse on top of the yogurt or a smooth drinking yogurt with orange and tangy grapefruit flavor. There are endless opportunities to innovate around citrus flavors.”

Meanwhile, fruit like acerola, acai, dragon fruit, cranberry or pomegranate are sought after by consumers in all categories. According to the company’s consumer research, four in ten consumers know the term “superfruits” that are healthy, rich in vitamins, nutritious, rich in fibers, natural and high-quality.

What’s coming next?
Sturm expects trends around naturality and sustainability to become even more important for consumers. However, she notes that the economically challenging time remains a difficulty.

“We observe a “squeezed middle” on the market: consumers either opt for basic products with known flavors (such as apple, pear, banana, strawberry) or for premium products with a clear functional benefit (e.g., more sustainable, health benefit, outstanding flavor or texture profile). That is why we work with our customers to achieve a clear positioning and added value for consumers,” she says.

As part of GNT’s sustainability roadmap for 2030, the company is working to improve the color intensity of its main fruit and vegetable crops by 30%. This involves screening for new crop varieties with naturally high color levels, which means they can grow fewer crops to achieve the same results – helping to reduce the use of water, fertilizer and pesticides and cutting transportation requirements.

“In addition, through our continuous cultivation-enhancement program, we are identifying the ideal planting densities and harvesting periods, minimizing further our pesticide and fertilizer use, while also scouting for new growing regions with optimal climatic conditions,” Jansen adds.

SVZ will continue building on its c2030 strategy, focusing on making key partnerships with other like-minded businesses within the industry and introducing more sustainability initiatives within its operations.

By Gaynor Selby


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