New technology helps for optimal fruit ripeness
Consumers are three times more likely to buy a ripe pear than an unripe one, postharvest consultant Deirdre Holcroft told Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Connections delegates in South Africa.
Her talk emphasized the importance of learning and understanding new advances in postharvesting techniques, with the aim of extending shelf life.
"Studies show that 3% of consumers in the pear study would purchase a pre-pack with ripe-sensitive technology again, and 85% would increase the frequencies that they buy pears."
She explained that color ripeness sensors stuck on pears were used to show degrees of ripeness from red for 'crispy' to yellow for 'ripe and juicy'.
"Aroma products make a product taste good," said Holcroft, who showed how smell could be improved by using an ethylene release canister for smaller ripening rooms.
A magazine rack system to allow several canisters to be held together and installed in a shipping container with an automatic trigger means fruit can be ripened on board, Holcroft explained.
However, she said while ethylene was useful for ripening she described it as "an evil" when it came to storage, referring to technologies that specialize in removing the chemical.
She said at the beginning of the year there was a "big splash" about a ethylene remover It’sFresh! e+, which would extend fruit shelf life.
The product has been proven to prevent wet bruising and decay in strawberries, helping the fruit maintain its gloss, juiciness and flavor.
"It's very exciting as we never thought of strawberries as a product that reacted to ethylene. This offers a few days of extension; and from a shipping point of view, a day or two of extension of shelf life has a big impact in terms of the bottom line."
New technology in detecting ethylene is offering more sensitive monitoring of the chemical with low maintenance portable wireless and laser systems.
Holcroft said she was enthusiastic at the prospect of finer measurement and lower concentrations of ethylene which was driving industry advances.
"There's a lot of really exciting innovations in packaging, which is now being used as a technology platform."
She explained that pears were now being stored in hammock packs to prevent damage during transport and storage.
"According to consumer tests, they are 95% more desirable than tray packs, and consumers appear to be willing to pay a little more."
Holcroft said modified atmosphere packages with liquid management were on the rise extending the life span of fresh cut tomatoes.
"All these innovations are meaningless without good temperature management," said Holcroft who discussed using radio frequency identification smart cards to monitor and track heat during transport.
She also highlighted the new cloud-based wireless Purfresh Intellipur system installed in shipping containers that can monitor temperature in transit as well as the condition and location of a ship.
Innovations were also driving the value-added product industry, as shown by the successful introduction of fresh cut peach and nectarines by Fruit Dynamics Inc. laboratories.
She said Fruit Dynamics knowledge of stonefruit had been pivotal to the success of the product, which has a 15-day shelf life.
"This level of advance in the pre-cut sector is necessary because 2.5% of apples produced in the U.S. are pre-cut, which in turn is mainly because of McDonald’s alternative menu item for the Happy Meal."
Holcroft touched on more ground-breaking advances such as the controversial genetic modification of apples preventing discoloring or browning even after bruising.
She added that marketers were moving away from traditional sticky labels with the advent of a laser-based system to mark fruit such as melons.
Holcroft said she hoped the South African produce industry would pay more attention to postharvest techniques with the aim of reaping greater rewards.