Fruits and vegetables are some of the most widely utilised horticultural commodities in the world. They are extremely versatile and are consumed in many forms, from raw and minimally processed to processed products. With consumer awareness increasing in terms of what people eat, there has in turn been an increase in the demand for the manufacture of goods from these commodities.
As with many other commodities, the production of fruit and vegetable products results in losses and waste.
‘Losses’, in the fresh produce industry, are the unintentional result of the way food is processed, and occur throughout the supply chain from harvesting all the way through to consumption.
‘Waste’, on the other hand, refers to fruit and vegetable components that do not conform to quality and food safety requirements. It is usually graded in this category because it is unfit for human consumption or does not conform to customer specifications like weight, size or colour, and they are intentionally discarded.
When considering the economic and environmental challenges our world faces, it is important for all members of the supply chain to be as cautious as possible, to prevent both losses and waste.
In 2015, there were ±800 million people in the world without access to ample food. This could potentially be alleviated by reworking or converting “food waste” into safe, consumable-fit food, while also ensuring that the quality of the food consumed is improved.
There is a definite need for industries to decrease and utilize their waste generated on a day-to-day basis, in a manner that supports sustainable development. Manufacturers are obligated by food safety requirements to implement responsible waste disposal practices that contribute to additional capital expenditure with no extra income. Making use of non-conforming fresh produce components such as skins, peels, seeds, pomace could possibly assist in generating new, functional ingredients with significant nutritional properties.
Fruit and vegetable waste inherently contains several bioactive compounds, such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary and novel fibre. However, waste is susceptible to spoilage, and should therefore be sanitised by some means before use. The production of powders from drying the waste is one way of achieving a safe product that still exhibits a large number of nutritional and functional capabilities. The use of fruit and vegetable powders in foods opens the door for many new products, as well as for the improvement of existing products.
Another example is the drying of bananas to create a flour that is high in oligosaccharides – which food producers will be permitted to claim on their labels, if the draft Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of foods (R.429/2014) are passed unchanged. Banana flour also has several functional benefits: it can be used as a thickening agent and imparts a creamy mouthfeel to a product, while having a neutral effect on the flavour of the end-product.
Carrot and beetroot peels and other by-products are high in carotenoids and anthocyanins, which act as natural colourants – again, if R.429 is passed, this could be declared on a product label as ‘natural colouring’. Depending on the proportions used, carrot and beetroot powders may also impart nutritional benefit to products in terms of vitamins and minerals.
There are many applications not yet considered. However, the possibilities for the use of fruit and vegetable waste are endless.
FACTS is interested in the area of developing concepts to do with preventing waste, and creating new and interesting categories of foods. FACTS is involved in assisting companies with new product development, along with the journey of testing and other regulatory requirements such as product labelling.