IQF fruit processor Vitafoods, born from a recent merger between frozen food giants Hortifrut and Alifrut, has extended its relationship with Bühler by investing in the SORTEX FA range to handle its processing operations. The plug and play optical sorters with advanced definition of color defects and unmatched FM removal have placed the company securely on track to hit its ambitious target of 30 million kg of frozen berries for global export in 2021.
Since the start of the global Covid-19 pandemic, public concern for healthy eating has risen. In particular, sales of easy to prepare and long-lasting frozen fruits have increased globally; a trend which is expected to continue with the frozen fruit market predicted to grow at a compound annual rate of 6.58% from 2020-25, reaching a market size of US$ 5.510 billion in 2025.
In response to this opportune time, multi-product frozen foods processing giant Alifrut and leader in the commercialization of frozen berries Hortifrut, joined forces to merge their frozen food operations (including five frozen production plants and corresponding assets) to satisfy their key consumer markets in Europe, Asia, the USA and Oceania. The new company called Vitafoods, established in July 2020, is on track to process and export approximately 30 million kg of frozen product in 2021, including 14 million kg of frozen blueberries and above 16 million kg of other frozen berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and cherries.
Drawing on experience
When deciding which technology to invest in to ensure the highest quality of frozen berries, Vitafoods drew on its past experience with the SORTEX FA2 optical sorter installed previously at Hortifruit’s Molina facility. Fernando Larios, Chief Operating Officer of Vitafoods, says: “Back in 2019 when we were operating as Hortifruit, invested in the SORTEX FA2 predominantly for our frozen blueberries and for small quantities of strawberries and blackberries.
“We chose to go with Bühler because of their very good price-quality ratio compared to other optical sorter providers. The stability and durability of their systems, the way that their technology met all of our required parameters and incorporated the vital component of food safety, all of these factors made it a simple decision for us.”
Confidence in FM removal
Larios adds: “As Hortifruit, our main problem before investing in the sorter was that we lacked confidence when it came to foreign material removal. As soon as we started using the SORTEX FA2, our confidence was restored. From then on, we could be sure that whatever problematic foreign material would come through our process (mainly plastic but also wood, sticks and stones) would be rejected. That feeling is priceless."