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Juice business moves beyond Fresh-Up

By Hugh Stringleman

Friday 28th March 2003

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Enzafoods New Zealand is not just the "juicing" division of the former Apple and Pear Marketing Board, now corporatised and owned by Guinness Peat Group.

While not denying it takes the juice out of 150,000 tonnes and more of reject apples each year, the company has ambitions for new beverages, food ingredients and functional foods.

Hence the "foods" part of its title.

Enzafoods has a turnover of more than $50 million a year and has already been picked for possible separation from Turners & Growers/Enza and listing in the medium term.

The birthplace of Fresh-Up, now packed and marketed by Frucor Beverages, Enzafoods sends 75% of its production from Hawke's Bay and Nelson facilities for export, mainly to Pacific rim markets.

And three-quarters of revenue still comes from the old apple juice clear or cloudy concentrates, with one-eighth of the water than the original juice. The company was formed in 1962 and soon after Kiwis were thrilled to have a year-round, affordable fruit juice in a can.

It takes all flawed and some windfall apples, paying $40/tonne from the packhouse and twice that from the orchard. In a big hail damage year, such as 2000, Enzafoods might process up to 200,000 tonnes.

Enzafoods also presses 10,000 tonnes of carrot, some kiwifruit, boysenberries and blackcurrants.

It is the approved processor for Glaxo SmithKline's Ribena blackcurrant juice in the southern hemisphere.

It does a range of organic juices along with apple pulps, slices and dices.

Other added-value products include flavour volatiles, in every apple variety, and cider ingredients, principally for Bulmer in Australia.

The added-value products are essential for the long-term health of the company, general manager Michael Konig, of Hastings said.

"The average price of apple juice concentrate on world markets has halved in the past five years," he said. China now dominated the market and Enzafoods had responded with added emphasis on customer relationship management with the likes of Nestle and Coca-Cola.

"We need to expand the functionality of our products," Mr Konig said. The company has pioneered different packaging, such as bag-in-box and pouches.

Another recent development has been universal fruit base (UFB) which has a superior, smooth and creamy texture, ideal for inclusion in natural fruit beverages, purees and smoothies, for example.

But the most exciting way forward lies in rehabilitation of the whole image of apple juice, historically downgraded by most western consumers.

Apples are a rich source of vitamin C, pectin, minerals such as potassium, calcium and boron and contain bioactive components (collectively known as phytochemicals or flavanoids) that have physiological effects beyond nutrition that protect and promote human health.

Apple juice contains concentrated polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, capturing the free radicals now implicated in many health problems, like cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The total polyphenolic compounds in fresh apple range from 27 to 300mg per 100g of fresh weight, says Enzafoods business development manager Brett Ennis. That same 100g of fresh apple has the antioxidant activity equivalent of 1500mg of vitamin C, which is more than contained in one of the big booster tablets.

Apple phenolics could be included in beverages, cereals and baked goods, dairy products, meat and fish products, dietary supplements, pet foods and cosmetics.

Enzafoods has a partnership with HortResearch to explore the market opportunities of functional foods and health claims.

"Whatever we do, we have to tell the story correctly and responsibly," Dr Ennis said.

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