Top-quality fruit and vegetable juices are packed full of nutritious natural ingredients: juices supply the human body with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Fruit juices and vegetable juices also offer a host of phytonutrients which, if consumed regularly, can have a beneficial effect on health. Phytonutrients are thought to prevent cancer, fight inflammation and lower cholesterol. Due to the carbohydrate content of the fructose they contain, fruit juices are not calorie-free. But in comparison to sugary soft drinks, they score highly when it comes to healthy enjoyment and a balanced diet. Fruit juices have a low to medium glycaemic index (GI). This index is used to classify foods containing carbohydrates in terms of their effect on blood glucose levels. A rapid rise in blood glucose teamed with an equally rapid fall often leads to hypoglycaemia, lethargy and intense hunger. Foods with a low GI, on the other hand, are digested more slowly, keeping the blood glucose curve more stable and thus ensuring a much more steady supply of energy to the body. A glass of apple juice has a GI of around 40, and a glass of orange juice an index value of about 45; soft drinks such as cola, by comparison, have a GI of around 80.
Further potential for growth
In 2009, total consumption of fruit and vegetable juices and nectars in the countries of Europe was around 11.26 billion litres, giving it top ranking world-wide in the juice consumption stakes. Europe was followed by North America, where a total of 9.5 billion litres was consumed. In the Asia-Pacific area, consumption in 2009 was around 8 billion litres (source: European Fruit Juice Association; Market Report 2010 ‘Liquid Fruit’). In the next few years, the greatest potential for growth is expected to centre on the Asia-Pacific region and South America.
Based on per capita consumption of fruit and vegetable juices and nectars, the US, with just under 28 litres per person, leads the world, followed by the Europeans with an average of 23 litres each per annum. Individual European countries, however, outperform the Americans – led by Germany with average consumption of 38.9 litres per person in 2009, Norway with 37.2 litres, Cyprus with 36.6 litres and the Netherlands with 29.1 litres. Viewed globally, orange juice is head and shoulders above other juices in consumer popularity.
As pure as possible
In terms of consumption patterns, two trends can be discerned at present. Norman Gierow, Global Market Segment Manager NCSD at SIG Combibloc: “Globally, consumers are tending to opt either for cheaper products from the range of orange juice drinks on offer, or for premium varieties of this juice classic. The beverage industry is responding to the market polarisation, as it is called, between ‘value for money’ and ‘premium’. Particularly in the quality juices sector, international food manufacturers are increasingly looking at fruit vesicles as a way of expanding their range of premium products. Fruit pulp and fruit sacs have the capacity to make a juice made from citrus fruits feel extremely authentic. This fits in with the general consumer trend towards buying products that are as pure as possible. Through the mouthfeel alone, fruit sacs intensify the impression of drinking a juice that delivers the best of the fruit”.
Fruit sacs are the juice-containing ‘vesicles’ in a citrus fruit. They are found in the inside of the fruit, where they are enclosed by the endocarp, a fibrous structure consisting of fine membranes that divide the fruit into 10 to 15 segments. If a drink is offered with fruit sacs in it, individual juice sacs are added to the drink. In contrast to this, in fruit pulp the endocarp itself can also be crushed into particles and processed together with the juice, as nutritious dietary fibre.
“A completely new development in the area of products aseptically filled in carton packs is the combination of milk with orange sacs”, says Norman Gierow. This unusual drink is offered by Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Ltd, one of China’s leading dairy companies. Gierow: “We see in this development a lot of potential for creating new beverage concepts that can be applied across multiple sectors, which food manufacturers will be able to use to augment their range with products containing added value. Depending on the size of the particulates, these products can be filled using either the standard filling machines from SIG Combibloc or for larger fruit sacs, an add-on ‘particulates kit’”.
Challenge: precision dosing
Ensuring the precision of the dosing, so that fruit sacs or other more solid product ingredients are fed into a drink at a constant rate, is a special challenge. An equally key factor for aseptic product safety is ensuring that no fruit fibres get caught in the sealing seams of the carton pack. “SIG Combibloc works with a sleeve system. This means that inside the filling machine, each carton sleeve is individually shaped, the base is sealed and the interior of the carton pack is sterilised. In the filling machine’s aseptic zone, the product, which has already been mixed in a product tank, is then filled into the carton packs as a finished product, in precisely measured portions. The carton pack is then sealed above the filling level, to prevent product ingredients from getting caught in the sealing seam. In addition, the filling system from SIG Combibloc has been configured to maintain a consistent particulate content, so that each carton pack contains as unvarying a proportion of the solid fruit ingredients, such as pulp and sacs, as possible”, says Gierow of the filling system’s special features.
He believes that the desire for authenticity and for foods that are as pure and natural as possible will continue to have a significant impact on buyers’ consumption choices. Gierow, an expert in NCSD products, says: “This trend signposts the direction for new product developments all over the world. Globally, fruit sacs and fruit pulp are set to really take off in this sector”.