A passion for tropical fruits

A passion for tropical fruits – use in the food industry

Arecent issue of Better Homes and Gardens featured an article entitled, “The New American Classics, Recipes for the ’90s.” In it, the writer listed mango fruit as one of 14 “trendy ingredients,” along with items such as feta and goat cheeses, and bean sauce.

According to New Product News, the number of new foods declaring mango on the label rose 33 percent in 1992 compared with 1991. The number with guava jumped from 12 to 32.

Judging from these reports, food companies are well aware of the attraction of tropical fruits. Their popularity is spurred, in part, by their exotic image. Yet, mango, guava, the more familiar banana, and the more exotic passion fruit also posses properties that make them beneficial as ingredients.

Quality from Quicornac

Sourcing tropical fruits is the first step toward use. Sourcing, however, is no easy task.

“the challenge is to find a supplier that can comply with the sophisticated quality standards of the U.S. food industry,” says Gerrit van Manen, president of ITI Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J.

Started in 1988, ITI has developed a close working relationship with processors of banana and pink guava puree, passion fruit concentrate and other tropical fruits in Ecuador, Brazil, Malaysia and Peru. The effort has made ITI a market leader in supplying quality tropical fruit products, says van Manen. “We feel Quicornac, S.A., Ecuador, our supplier of passion fruit juice and concentrate, embodies the excellence in quality that ITI demands for its U.S. customers.”

ITI is the exclusive North American sales office for Quicornac, one of the largest passion fruit processors and plantation owners in the world.

“Controlling the growing, harvesting and processing conditions of our fruit allows us to keep costs, quality and availability consistent,” says Bernard Frei, manager, Quicornac.

For example, all passion fruit is inspected twice before transportation to the company’s plant. At the plant, the fruit is checked for color and aroma and compared against pH, titratable acidity (TA) and Brix specifications.

The juice is lightly pressed from the pulp and seeds; separated by a centrifuge; and then deaerated and pasteurized. To produce a 50 Brix concentrate, water is removed by low-pressure, partial-vacuum evaporation, which isn’t destructive to desirable vitamins and flavor components, says Frei. An additional distillation step recaptures volatile aromas by recovering these compounds from the evaporated water, which is pasteurized in a closed system and added back to the juice.

Under sanitary conditions, the juice is filled into drums and frozen. The plant QC staff again checks the end product against TA, Brix, total bacteria, and yeast and mold count standards.

Beyond exotic

Besides their exotic image, other properties of tropical fruits, including flavor and nutritional profile, make them a perfect fit for dairy processors that want to manufacture and market something different and desirable. Consider the following:

* According to USDA’s Handbook No. 8, the purple variety of raw passion fruit possesses 350 percent more vitamin A than oranges and more than 1,500 percent more than apples. Guava also contains more vitamin A and provides almost five times as much vitamin C as raw oranges and 60 times more than apples.

* The high TA of an ingredient such as passion juice functions to promote microbial stability in refrigerated products.

* Passion fruit demand in Europe is 10 times higher than in the United States.

“The U.S. growth possibilities for passion fruit are tremendous,” says Richard Ciuba, sales manager at ITI. “With our nationwide sales and distribution network, we are in a position to meet this growing demand.”

While such trendy ingredients as bean sauce may be hard for dairy processors to take advantage of, the production of exotic sorbets, punches and novelties based on passion fruit, mango and guava may well be a profitable endeavor.

For more information on ITI Inc.’s tropical fruits, circle number 411 on the reader reply card.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Business News Publishing Co.

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