Adding value to Apples
The promoter runs an 80 ha farm producing 1200 tonnes of apples per year. These apples, along with others purchased from local farmers, are prepared into various formats depending on the customers requirements. However, as the margins from both the farm and the apple processing business are decreasing the promoter decided to investigate the development and diversification into unique product lines. From this it was decided to look at the dried apple route for two reasons:
- Increased pressures from consumers to remove preservatives from fresh fruit and
- Advantage of an extended shelf life.
The promoter felt that the following information was required:
- Type, volume and source of dried apple currently used by the manufacturing and catering industry in the UK. This was to be undertaken by a telephone questionnaire as the results could be quickly accessed.
- Methods used in the dried apple process
- Understand the costs involved and thus decide if it is feasible to produce dried apple in N. Ireland.
A key part of the investigation involved visiting dried apple processors in North America, however, due to the time restrictions involved in the completion of this report, the promoters contact was unable to arrange factory visits in time.
Results of Investigations
A range of manufacturing, bakery and wholesale companies from N.I, the UK and the RoI were interviewed of which 56% agreed to complete a questionnaire covering such areas as the type and volumes of apples used, the source and the price paid. From this it was ascertained that 52% of bakers used dried apple, as opposed to other forms, for the following reasons:
- The dried product was more consistent
- It had a longer shelf life
- The end product using dried apple was preferred
This was demonstrated by the fact that several bakeries in Co. Armagh used imported dried apples from Italy and Chile in preference to locally grown fresh apples.
LEDU Import and Export Report
The promoter, in the course of the investigation also viewed a LEDU (Now Invest Northern Ireland) report, which indicated the sources, volumes and value of imported apples into the UK over a 10 year period. This showed that the main countries importing dried apple into the UK, in descending order of volume e, were the USA, Chile, Italy, China and Poland. Whilst the volume of imports from these countries has been decreasing over recent years, 1999 figures showed that 1492 tonnes of dried apples were imported worth £3.7 million.
- Imported dried apple is being used throughout the UK and RoI in the manufacturing industry.
- The users of dried apple have indicated that it has many advantages over the fresh apple.
- The promoter was not able to ascertain whether the local Bramley apple could be dried to produce a similar, if not better product.
- Good planning and structuring is the key to a successful project.
- Arranging suitable visits takes time.
- The food and manufacturing and bakery industries are not always keen to divulge information relating to their ingredients, sources of raw materials and prices paid.
The information within these case studies is for general information only. It is not necessarily complete and is not intended to address all issues relating to the proposed diversification ideas. Market and circumstances may change substantially and thus this information should not be used directly within the development of other business cases for diversification without checking its validity at the present time and directly to your particular project and circumstances. Further research is recommended before embarking on any new enterprise.