An innovative solution for fresh-cut fruit may present new opportunities to exporters as it extends the shelf life of fruit through using natural ingredients.

Thailand has been long recognized for its production and export of fresh fruit. In 2018, exports of fresh fruit totalled 62.2 billion baht, or over $2 billion. With the right technology for preserving and adding value to fruit, this number could potentially become much higher in the future.

A group of graduate students at Sasin School of Management in Thailand has addressed this problem by developing a natural fruit coating that has the ability to extend the shelf life of product by up to three times, which means that fruit exporters may be able sell cut fruit directly to importers overseas.

David Petchrothai, Marketing and Operations Manager at Eden Agritect, reveals that the innovative solution, called Naturen, is made from 100% natural ingredients.

“The coating will slow the browning of cut fruit, while also reducing the growth of bacteria,” he says. “Depending on the quality of the fruit, this easy-to-apply coating can extend the fruit’s shelf life by two to three times, and can preserve the condition of the cut fruit for an average of 15 days.”

According to Petchrothai, the coating works especially well with fruit, such as apple, mango, pineapple, pomelo, and even vegetables, such as onion and carrot. As Naturen will not change the flavour or texture of the fruit, it is virtually undetectable to the end consumer.

“Moreover, the coating is made from natural ingredients so it can be entirely digested by the human body, ensuring your good health,” says Petchrothai.

The coating technology was discovered over 10 years ago, but in its early days, the mixture had gelatin which is a restricted product for Muslims. Now, the research team has developed a gelatin-free formula, and the coating has been tested by the National Food Institute of Thailand and the Halal Centre to ensure that it is safe for consumption.

“We already have fruit manufacturers who are using Naturen, and we hope that this product will help minimize waste while opening new logistic opportunities for Thai manufacturers,” says Petchrothai. “Thai fruit is one of the most delicious products from our country, but exporting it as whole fruit has a low added value. Cut fruit can add about 75% to its price while producers can better control its quality.”

Naturen received the ThaiFEX Taste Innovation Show Winner award at ThaiFEX-World of Food Asia 2019 held in Bangkok, further demonstrating its potential for the fruit export industry.

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 Words by Pimsirinuch Borsub