Advertorial: Subsole creates 'Taste Index' to incentivize its growers
By looking for the best way to evaluate kiwifruit quality while guiding and incentivizing producers to meet the highest possible standards so as to access the best markets, the Exporter Subsole has developed a new tool: the "Subsole Taste Index" (ISS).
The Subsole team developed this index based on the parameters of the product's dry matter, soluble solids, Brix level, and the consistency of these standards on the growers' farms. The fruit is sampled upon arrival at the packing plant after harvest, and it is then categorized according to these parameters. With these results it is possible to ensure that the kiwifruit reaches the best market for its properties.
Andro Vidal, manager of Subsole's Southern Zone (where the biggest concentration of the company's kiwifruit production is located) said: "This is an internal tool that enables us to coordinate the areas of production and quality so that there is a common language allowing our products to arrive at the most demanding markets with excellent fruit quality. We were able to accomplish this thanks to the fruit segregation that we have been able to achieve using this index."
One of the reasons why Subsole developed this tool was the need to be able to differentiate between its producers' fruit based on parameters directly indicating the quality of the final product.
"Traditionally we put our focus on two incentives: firstly, we rewarded the export percentage; secondly, we rewarded the dry matter index. However, we realized that this presented some problems. In the case of the export percentage, we were always rewarding the producers who had early harvests (as they were less exposed to climatic damage). In the case of dry matter, sometimes the orchards were harvested with good dry matter but very high soluble solid levels, which affects the quality of the final product as it softens more easily. All this meant that there was no competition amongst our producers, and the focus was not where it should have been to achieve the best fruit quality. In light of this, we searched for new ways around the problem," Vidal said.
"The idea of this incentive is to motivate and give feedback to our growers so that they can produce better quality kiwifruit every year and improve their harvest operations at the optimum time, according to the Brix levels that enhance the flavor of the final kiwifruit. We believe that this is the path to generate an increased competitiveness and efficiency in every orchard, while rewarding growers for their commitment and results," Andro Vidal said.
The 2014 season has been the first in which Subsole officially worked with this tool. A few weeks ago the first results were published, and 23 out of 61 producers were rewarded with an additional bonus thanks to the good indices.
What should you bear in mind to be able to fulfill the parameters required by Subsole? José Tomás Alvear, technical manager at Subsole, said that the cultural practices on the orchards, the control of the plants, and an efficient harvest operation at the correct time were all fundamental to achieve the potential of the ISS in every orchard.
What do producers earn from this evaluation? According to Vidal, in the future they can expect a proportion of their liquidation to be paid according to the index; a higher ISS corresponds to a larger bonus. This will make incentives the key of the business: improving the quality of Chilean kiwifruit to enhance customers' eating experiences throughout the world.
NIR segregation technology
NIR (Near infrared) is a technology that, through an infrared laser that is applied to the fruit in the packing line, allows the kiwifruit to be classified according to its level of dry matter, pressure and other factors. This procedure has been very efficient at improving the segregation of the fruit, allowing a consistent quality in the packed boxes and ensuring they arrive at the best market for their characteristics. In addition, with NIR the fruit that is soft or that has other defects can be eliminated, which also results in an improve quality of the final product.
Furthermore, the consistency that is achieved in the finished box allows the fruit to arrive at its destination more efficiently, by improving the consistency in the maturity and therefore minimizing the waste and allowing the company to provide a product that exceeds consumers' expectations.
Subsole is currently working with this technology in its main packing plant, Subsole Isla de Maipo. For Andro Vidal, this measurement system has allowed him to supply a better quality product to the clients and means that during the next season the NIR measurements will contribute to the development of the ISS, validating the strategy adopted by the Exported Subsole.