Chilean dried berry company diversifies product line to expand horizons

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Chilean dried berry company diversifies product line to expand horizons

Just a 30-minute drive from the southern Chilean city of Temuco in the Araucanía region, nestled between lakes and volcanoes sit the offices and factory of dried berry development company Vilkun. 6

At we visited the group to check its progress since a decision was made last year to diversify its offering by including healthy snacks and frozen items in its portfolio, coming from both cultivated and wild crops. 

Vilkun commercial director Sandra Bock said the company started 10 years ago on a small scale, but due to early successes it became part of leading Chilean blueberry company Grupo San José Farms.

She said what made Vilkun different to other companies was mostly in its processes, through a combination of osmotic dehydration (submerging the fruit in a syrup where 50% of the initial moisture is dried) with conventional dehydration in a drying tunnel.

Click here for a photo gallery from the visit

The company has positioned itself in this business with blueberries and other fruits like raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and cherries, but market trends have led it to include less conventional ingredients like orange peels and wild berries like murta and maqui.

The group has also developed a new quick freeze dried (QFD) technology, producing 100% fruit snacks and fruit powder.

She said the process was able to dry products in a faster timeframe than traditional freeze drying techniques, helping maintain the raw ingredients' natural properties. 

In the case of healthy snacks, this allowed for a crunchier texture in the dried fruit with more flavor, according to Bock. In addition, she claimed the subtleties of different varieties were maintained, for example between Fuji or Granny Smith apples. 

She said results had been exceptional for powdered maqui in terms of preserving nutrients and properties, which has been able to prove a point of difference in several demanding markets.

"We are very content with the results obtained after years of study, both from the point of view of agricultural production as well as the design and development of the technology," Bock said. 

She said one of Vilkun's key focus points has been to strengthen long-term relationships with clients and strategic partners.

In markets like China, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, the U.S. and Europe, strong commercial links have been built working "shoulder to shoulder" with different customers that are always in search of new products and solutions, according to specific requirements. 

The company also has important international certifications like BRC, SEDEX, USDA Organic and Ecocert (EU), while there are also certifications in the works for Japan and South Korea, as well as in Halal, Kosher, GMO-free and Vegan labels.

"Our intention is to continue growing in markets in which we have already traded our products, while also penetrating new markets.

"The idea is to be a main player on the global stage in dried and frozen fruits."

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