FRESNACK: Creating a healthy snack of sweet fruit
Consumers are increasingly demanding safe, tasty, naturally flavoured, high-quality food that resemble fresh products. In order to meet these demands without compromising food safety, novel and emerging technologies can be applied to the development of fruit-based processed products. Of these technologies, microwave vacuum drying stands out. Drying is one of the most ancient methods of food preservation. The key objective of food drying is to extract water and solids up to a level where microbial contamination can be avoided. In conventional drying, products are dried at a high temperature over a long period of time.Fruits and vegetables have a critical point of dry mass content. If the moisture content is reduced to this point during conventional drying, quality parameters remain unchanged. Thus, drying by combining hot air and a vacuum microwave is an efficient process from an energetic and economic point of view, as well as providing a product of higher quality than the popular fried snack.
In this context, the present pilot project aims to develop a minimally processed, fruit-based product that is convenient and safe, maintains sensory properties and nutritional quality, and has a sufficient shelf life to permit commercialisation (distribution). The development of a healthy snack made of fruit that has similar sensory properties and nutritional quality to those of the fresh fruit and highly convenient to use, may help to increase consumer confidence, satisfaction and, therefore, product acceptability. This would contribute to an increased level of consumer health and wellbeing, as well as introducing a new product onto the market that opens the door to an alternative to fresh fruit marketing and is in line with the current trend towards clean labelling.
The main objective is to develop new products using sweet fruit (apple, pear and peach) cut into slices and dried (healthy snack) with a shelf life of 4-6 months by implementing a new process technology that combines the dried with hot air (conventional) and the application of vacuum microwave technology.