Consumer preferences drive innovation in fresh produce

Consumers are driving new technologies and innovations in the way fresh fruit and vegetables are prepared for market, according to the organisers of the Australasian Postharvest Conference being held in Terrigal this week.

NSW Department of Primary Industries research horticulturalist, Dr Jenny Ekman, says the message from the conference is that innovations are crucial at a time when fruit and vegetable consumption is static or falling in much of the western world.

"Even though consumers say they want to eat more fruits and veg, many people fail to eat even the recommended five or more servings of fruit and veg a day."

The three-day conference, organised by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, has attracted researchers from around the world.

Today, 11 September, is Industry Day, and speakers will be addressing such questions as understanding consumers, innovation at work and linking research with the market place.

Speakers include Dr James Gorny from the University of California, who will be highlighting the role of post-harvest technologies in addressing consumer concerns about food safety and the environment.

Food safety was highlighted recently in the US when food-borne E.coli bacteria in bagged spinach caused illness in consumers.

According to Dr Ekman: "The view from the United States is that sustainability, carbon footprints and the ‘buy local’ movements are having a significant impact on the handling of fresh fruit and vegetables, and ornamentals.

"Consumers want green, environmentally friendly postharvest technologies.

"Already, the use of more environmentally friendly fungicides post-harvest and packaging is expanding rapidly", Dr Ekman said.

The conference, with the theme of "Postharvest at work", opened yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Terrigal.