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Simon Matthews - AgriCoat Nature seal

"We are doing some really exciting things with ready to eat products for salad bowls and sandwiches"

After a break of a couple of years, AgriCoat NatureSeal were back at Macfrut in Rimini, Italy. The company has strengthened its European sales team. Simon Matthews, Director at the company was there with Marino Castillo who is based in Spain, and has responsibility for the market throughout the Mediterranean region, they took the opportunity to meet the Italian customers.

AgriCoat NatureSeal has been in the business of preserving fruit for over 20 years. "It all started with apples, but after that we got into so many different types of fruit: snacking carrots, snacking celery etc. and then for big volumes applications for products such as potatoes where sulphites have been used to stop browning, but we look at more environmentally friendly, consumer friendly products," explains Simon.

"Historically we worked with whole fruit, creating edible, plant-based coatings to delay ripening and protect fruit during shipping, storage and handling. Around 20 years ago people got into fresh cut, and we partnered up very early on with the USDA to develop a system to extend shelf life in cut apples, we were probably the first company to bring to the market an apple which had a long shelf life and actually still tasted like an apple. Our product, NatureSeal, is a mineral blend, before this people were using products with sulphites or allergens. Some people used lemon juice and although it may have stopped browning for a period of time, it affects the flavour. NatureSeal was one of the first products to come to the market which offered long shelf life without any compromise in flavour.

Marino Castillo and Simon Matthews.

"We were perfectly positioned when the fresh cut industry took off. People wanted to be healthy, and fruits were seen a great alternative to crisps or chocolate for snacking on the go. And of course, when the fast-food restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King started to put fruit on the menu it just roller-coastered, and that took us all over the world, probably faster than we intended to go. We had the US, UK and Europe covered, but suddenly we had to supply those sorts of companies in Asia, so we went truly global. It was a fantastic period, actually.

It was not only the fast-food companies who started to want these products. Many restaurants have limited space and labour costs are high making it sometimes cheaper to buy in prepared fruit and veg rather than prepare it on site and to dispose of the waste.

"We are also doing some exciting things with ready to eat products which are going into the preparation of products like sushi and avocado, for inclusion in salad bowls and sandwiches.

"Peeled, ready to eat avocados are also becoming more popular, when you buy one like this you already know that it is perfectly ripe, there is no Russian roulette: is it ripe or is it black on the inside? So, it can be prepared, diced, sliced or in chunks, and you know what you are getting. This is really on trend just now and is being included in all sorts of food products and not just in Europe, we are seeing an uptick in demand from customers in Asia too.

"We have always had demand for extra functionality. The original product for apples, unfortunately doesn't work for example, on a mango, or a banana or an avocado, so we have had to go back to the lab and change the formula for different food types. One of the challenges that we are working on at the moment is to see if we can combine what we do which is basically control colour, texture and taste, but also include something which deals with microbial spoilage because at the moment people might be washing in chlorine substances to sanitise the fruit, we are working on systems which are more environmentally friendly than that.

"We are working with companies which have really exciting ideas, there are people who are looking at working with frozen products, can we add functionality to those once they are defrosted. Imagine being able to prepare a fruit, say in South Africa and ship it to Asia where it can be used in food service just by defrosting it and also have a shelf life. There are all sorts of areas which we are engaging in."

For more information:
Simon Matthews
AgriCoat NatureSeal
Tel: +44 1488 648988
[email protected]