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Juicy trends

Looking at the rows upon rows of fruit juices on our supermarket shelves it would be easy to think that this readymade superfood had been around for centuries; but you’d be wrong. While it’s probably true that mankind has been enjoying fruit juice throughout recorded history, its fragile chemical nature has meant that until comparatively recently it was impossible to keep it fresh for more than a few days.

New technology

It is said that in the case of orange juice, overproduction of oranges in California way back in the early 1900s prompted the creation of the fruit juice industry we know today. At that time almost all the crop was sold as solid fruit and the juice industry, in the days before home refrigerators, was practically non-existent.

The producers had become overburdened by a glut of fruit that nobody knew what to do with, and the industry faced the possibility of having to destroy around 30 per cent of its trees. Fortunately it was around this time that new pasteurization techniques were coming onstream and the growers hit on the idea of turning the fruit into juice at source, using the new technology to preserve its shelf life. At the same time the new national railway network was completed, allowing easy access to America’s big cities and eager consumers. A new industry had been born.

The US has now slipped from being the world’s largest producer of orange juice, having been overtaken by the Brazilian state of São Paolo in the 1980s. Brazil now accounts for almost 50 per cent of the total world production, with the US delivering around 37 per cent*.

Global industry

Surprisingly, while the basic techniques for producing good quality fruit juice had been known for many years it was not until after the Second World War that the industry really took off throughout the world. And it wasn’t until the 1980s that the present bewildering range of exotic juices started to appear on supermarket shelves. At last the world could enjoy the tastes and textures of unfamiliar fruits from every corner of the earth simply by taking a carton from the fridge and pouring the contents into a glass.

Although orange juice still remains the world’s favorite, the imagination of the juice manufacturers knows no bounds. Exotic cocktails, made from fruits like papaya, mango, pomegranate and passion fruit presented in equally exotic cartons, compete for our attention, all promising good health and well being for the discerning customer.

Health benefits

Papaya, for example, seems to have particularly beneficial qualities due to its high levels of vitamin C, magnesium, luterein, betacryptoxanthin and beta carotene, which – as any nutritionist worth his salt will know – helps keep skin healthy, eyes clear, and is even said to protect against certain types of cancer. Cranberry juice, on the other hand, is said to help people suffering from cystitis and can also prevent the formation of kidney and bladder stones.

Drinking pomegranate juice has been shown to stabilize the levels of men's antigen prostate level, or PSA. It is also thought that pomegranate juice increases blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease.

The list is seemingly endless and the amazing thing is that, unlike most foods that are good for us, fruit juices actually taste nice as well.

Juicy trends

With all these apparent health benefits it’s not surprising that the relatively new phenomenon of the ‘Juice Bar’ is gaining in popularity, with pioneers of the trade offering ready-made franchises to entrepreneurs keen to get a foothold in the market. In high streets and shopping malls from Sydney to New York the brightly lit bars create tempting concoctions of every kind of juice imaginable.

During the last decade designer juices like naked, which has become part of the giant PepsiCo group, and innocent, now part-owned by rival Coca-Cola, have made massive inroads into the traditional juice market by introducing super-quality smoothies and other premier health-drink products. This highly profitable section of the juice market is aimed squarely at the well-heeled, health-conscious, gym-subscribing customer, as well as those simply looking for an occasional treat.

With the increase in public awareness of the benefits of healthy eating it is likely that this premier section of the market will continue to flourish despite the current economic downturn. Highly populated developing countries like China and India will provide enormous potential markets for both mainstream and premier fruit juice products in the future.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but when those early Californian orange growers came up with a solution to the problem of their unwanted fruit, they could never have imagined shelves full of vanilla, banana and acai berry smoothies.

GEA engineering for the juice industry

Various GEA Group companies are involved in all the key stages of the citrus juicing industry including production, bottling and refrigeration.

Leading the way in beverage technology expertise is GEA Westfalia Separator, part of GEA Mechanical Equipment. GEA Westfalia Separator has been the market leader in centrifugal separation technology for over 100 years and its range of separators, decanters and membrane filtration help manufacturers to ensure maximum yield and the highest product quality. GEA Westfalia Separator’s range of separators and decanters are used in the extraction process, resulting in higher product yields and consistently high quality juice and oil. GEA Hovex supplies desanding cyclones to protect the downstream equipment from the erosive effect of the sand.

With GEA Niro’s freeze-drying technology, GEA Process Engineering improves juices’ shelf life and reduces storage and transportation costs. GEA Wiegand’s evaporation technology (taking out water from solids by thermal energy) is used to concentrate juices. By extracting the flavors from the thin juices to create a thick concentrate, the juice can be reconstituted close to the fruit’s original flavor after transportation and storage. GEA Filtration technology is used for reclaiming CIP (Clean In Place) chemicals for reuse in the CIP process. GEA Procomac is a specialist in cutting-edge bottling and packaging technology. It designs, manufactures and services complete cold aseptic and ESL (Extended Shelf Life) filling lines for juices in PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Its customers include Tropicana, one of the US’s biggest juice manufacturers.

Finally, GEA Refrigeration Technologies is involved in the refrigeration of juice. The product is transported in ‘juice carriers’, specially designed bulk vessels that can hold up to half a million refrigerated liters of juice.

*BBC news Channel website