A lot of fruit is thrown away or left unharvested every year in the fruit region. 70% of these surpluses are currently processed into juices, syrups, etc. This means that a large amount of fruit is lost. In addition, a lot of local fruit is kept in refrigerators for a long time, only to be sold in the winter.
With the Fruitkruid project, vzw Rups wants to work towards a more optimal processing and consumption of these fruit surpluses, and at the same time offer a sustainable alternative for refrigeration. Specifically, we researched how surplus fruit could be dried and processed into a tasty fruit powder: 'Fruitkruid' by means of an optimal drying process. By doing so, we aim for a long shelf life, maximum retention of vitamins and lower energy consumption. In this way, drying fruit can offer an alternative to refrigeration.
Fruitkruid is also an innovative concept that offers possibilities to flavour dishes and add an extra dimension to (Belgian) cuisine. For instance, apple herb can give meat sauces a natural fruity touch, or pear herb creates a surprising flavour in tea or patisserie. And how often is only the peel of lemons used in a cake? Lemon fruit herb can be an alternative for that natural lemon taste, without wasting it.
In cooperation with the experts of The Food Pilot we explored the production process for fruit powder with four different flavours and a variety of processing methods.
By using an optimal drying process to process surplus fruit into fruit powder, Fruitkruid aims for a long shelf life, maximum preservation of vitamins and limited energy consumption.
We carried out shelf life experiments, analysed the packaging and explored the possibility of further commercialisation of Fruitkruid.
The product was tested and approved by a taste panel, and this in various processing methods. Fruitkruid is both tasty, innovative and healthy. Our test persons were unanimously enthusiastic about the possibilities of the product.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
The right choice of packaging was an important consideration, not only in terms of branding, but also with a view to sustainability and shelf life, two of our spearheads. So it was decided that a block-bottom bag would be the best choice for our Fruitkruid.
The sustainability aspect of processing residual fruit is unfortunately overshadowed by the high energy consumption of the freeze-drying process. Renewable energy sources could solve that problem in time.
Processing the fruit before the drying process provided surprising insights: the freeze-drying process unexpectedly caused a decolourisation of the (pre-processed) brown-coloured fruit.
Scale is our biggest stumbling block. Fruitkruid is a high-quality food product with a high production cost. Unfortunately, producing Fruitkruid on a scale that is commercially interesting is not feasible for an organisation of our size.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Our belief in this kind of circular process endures. Thanks to the positive feedback from various corners, we also believe in the potential of Fruitkruid as a product. Unfortunately, scale is the limiting factor for us: producing fruit weed on a commercially interesting scale is not feasible for our organisation. Therefore, we have decided to end the project here.