TOMRA sorting and grading solutions support apple packhouses meet operational challenges and protect customers’ brand reputations

Damien Gibson, global category director of apples at TOMRA Food, analyses the challenges faced by apple packhouses, and explains how TOMRA Food’s solutions allow them to reduce the labour required for sorting whilst significantly improving the consistency, and accuracy and packout of the sorted product.

Although apples are one of the world’s most widely consumed fruits, their popularity does not make it any easier for the businesses growing, sorting and packing them. If anything, the standards required in apple production are getting tougher.

As apples are in plentiful supply all year round, consumers are reluctant to purchase any that are sub-standard. This puts retailers and packhouses under pressure to deliver consistent product quality all the time. The same applies to food safety regulations, especially in export markets. Now more than ever before, apples require accurate and consistent sorting and grading.

As the global supply of apples generally keeps pace with demand — some 86 million tonnes are grown every year — profit margins can be tight. This increases the pressure on packhouses to improve operational efficiencies and minimise cost-per-kg.  Furthermore, as consumers and retailers increasingly expect the food industry to adopt sustainable business practices, there is further pressure to improve packing efficiencies to reduce food waste.

All this is complicated by the fact that growers are striving to achieve bigger yields and better pack-out by introducing new varieties. This means packers will be required to acquire knowledge about the new fruit, its possible internal and external imperfections, and how to grade it accurately.

These challenges mean that packhouses must strike a balance between quality and quantity. While product quality has to meet customers’ requirements, over-delivering on quality is no smarter than over-delivering on quantity. The right products must be packed in the right box every time.

The full article is available in the latest edition of Food & Beverage Asia August/September 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.