From getting the maximum amount of pulpy juice from an orange during the extraction process to making the best use of previously wasted byproducts, sustainability is a phenomenon whose time has come in the fruit juice industry, writes Francisco Purroy Balda, JBT’s Europe, Middle East & North Africa Sales & Accounts Manager – Citrus and Juice Processing Technologies.
Sustainability is the word on everybody’s lips across the fruit juice and produce industries at the moment. But what does it really mean and why does it matter? Far from just being an environmental concern – and that should surely be good enough in itself – being sustainable can help differentiate a fruit juice or processing business and, crucially, make a positive difference to the bottom line.
The fruit processing industry in which the juice segment is probably the largest produces a huge amount of waste and byproducts annually. if not handled correctly, these byproducts and waste can create serious environmental and economic problems for the customer and the surrounding area where they are located.
At JBT we have redefined our mission with a fresh focus on making better use of the world’s precious resources. We provide solutions to help our customers achieve success, but we will do it sustainability. This is now part of the DNA of JBT.
Given this renewed focus on sustainability, we have developed technologies to make better use of all byproducts and waste generated by the juice extraction process. Orange peel, pulp and even seeds are rich in valuable components. We are talking about essential oils, d-Limonene, pectins, valuable flavonoids. With JBT essential oil recovery systems, what previously was a waste or byproduct is often becoming a major value stream for an organization.
For example, a tonne of not-from-concentrate orange juice or NFCOJ typically sells for €500 or €0.5 per litre or kilo at an industry level. One kilo of d-Limonene or essential oil (orange CPO) is currently sold on the market for around €4.5.
But this is just the start when it comes to byproducts. There is now talk that the food industry could replace additives such as E330 (ascorbic acid) in many products with organic lemon juice because a vast percentage of the makeup of organic lemon juice is ascorbic lemon acid. So, there are many ways to look into this and work towards a much more sustainable fruit and juice industry.
Of course it’s true that the carbon footprint of fruit processors is much lower than animal protein processors. Firstly because you are planting trees, which capture carbon, but also because processing fruits and vegetables requires substantially less water than meat or fish. However, once you go into the processing facility, you need to get as much yield from all those incoming fruits and vegetables as you can, and JBT has a plethora of solutions that can make a difference.
We are working on systems that can filter and recover as much water as possible during washing, including redesigning sprays for maximum pressure, maximum effectiveness with the lowest flow of fresh water into the system.
Linked to this – for fruit and vegetable processing where chlorine is permitted for use – we have an alliance with a company called SmartWash who have invented a molecule which binds to chlorine and makes it longer lasting and less volatile in water.
Following washing, many processors need to steam or blanch the products, and for that JBT has a new solution called the DCC Steamer from FTNON, which saves a huge amount of steam compared with previously available technologies.
On the fresh produce side, we have a great number of processing aids, such as coatings and waxes, which improve shelf-life, impede microbial growth, and minimize oxidation and rancidity in fruits and vegetables. In addition, Natural Branding from JBT ally Laser Food is a safe laser-marking system for fruits and vegetables which removes the need for any stickers or prints. For the organic segment in particular, we believe Natural Branding has a bright future.
In terms of extraction, we are working hard on solutions that deliver the highest yield and lowest waste. When you look at citrus for example – which accounts for 50% of juices worldwide – we are continuing to invest hugely in R&D to leave only membranes and peel and make sure we get as much pulpy juice as possible. This means fewer kilos of fruits will be needed for the same amount of juice.
So why invest in sustainable solutions? It’s simple. It offers financial sustainability for your business because you can get value from those things that were previously wasted. In fact, you might be putting your business at risk because betting everything on one product – say a juice or a puree – is not enough in a hyper-competitive world. Add in pressure from consumers and retailers, and the ethical imperative for organizations to be more sustainable, and the case is made. Now is the time for sustainability.