John Ranicar Forager Foods

Giving 2nd grade produce another chance

Forager Food Co., established in 2009 to utilise and preserve the best local produce in it’s purest form – freeze dried. Using state of the art equipment the company processes, dries and packages a diverse range of foods providing long shelf life whilst protecting the most valuable and delicate ingredients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, colours and flavours.

John Ranicar, Director at Forager Foods believes one of the biggest drivers of their products is the health benefits, and the opportunity it gives growers to offload second grade products that are not as suited to other fresh supply markets.

"Literally every day I get a phone call, especially during the harvest season when there is a glut that needs to be processed quickly," John said. "We could also see that there was a lot of second grade product that was being wasted - particularly apples and cherries. 10 years ago there was very little market for that second grade fruit, but it is perfectly good. They estimate that a third of vegetables grown don't leave the paddock. We saw the opportunity to process this fruit and vegetables, with nothing added like preservatives. We can utilise them and either turn them into pieces or powders."

Strawberries sliced and ready to be freeze dried

John says the company is centrally based to draw produce from all across the state, which is a benefit to help keep transport costs low. But one of the biggest challenges is getting the right stock at the right time of year.

John with frozen raspberries which go for crumble

"Now what we are doing, in strawberry season for example, is to process what we can and put it into storage, and draw on that throughout the year, but as a small business we can only afford to put away so much stock. We have built in capacity with the expectation that we will fill it, and when we get close we build more. Ultimately it might be that we build a new facility and it might be in North Queensland because we'll target tropical fruits and vegetables, and save shipping them down here."

The freeze drier looks very impressive

"We put two years sell by date on our products, but could probably put 20," said John. "There is no moisture. It's sealed in a foil aluminium pouch - so it basically cannot decompose."

It can hold 1150kg of product

Forager Foods have previously supplied China with freeze dried products for a hotel chain, the company has also just sent their first container of freeze dried fruits to China for the retail market. John says there has also been success in the Malaysian market for his products.

It extends way back to accommodate 4 trolleys of trays

"We have got product that went there just before Christmas and they have come back really excited because it was really well accepted," he said. "They have already put the next order to go this month. That particular distributor was also looking at Singapore, and also the Middle East because they consume a lot of dried fruit."

The freeze drier from the outside, this machine has just been installed and has 40% more capacity.

"Most of the enquires that we get are specifically because we are Tasmanian - not because we are Australian," John said. "I went to China ten years ago and they hadn't heard of Tasmania, and now everyone knows where it is. We are competing with product predominantly made in Asia, so Thailand and China, where their cost base is lower than ours. So we have had to target our branding at the top end of the market as opposed to the general consumption end."

For more information:
John Ranicar
Forager Food Co.
Tel: +61 418 138 539

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