Beverage R&D: Going global for exotic fruits
More than ever, consumers are looking for fruit that is nutritious, pure and interesting. Today’s beverage trends favor fruits that are high in vitamin content, and consumers are becoming more sophisticated about fruits as they desire new taste sensations.
iTi Tropicals Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J., is all about tropical and exotic fruit. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in November, iTi Tropicals has become one of the leading U.S. suppliers of tropical and exotic fruit juice concentrates, purees and individually quick frozen (IQF) pieces. The independent company imports high-quality tropical and exotic fruit purees, concentrates and IQF pieces.
Since 1988, iTi Tropicals has been meeting growing demands of its customers in its quest to explore the taste of tropical and exotic fruits that are high in antioxidants. iTi’s focus has been on a core group of fruit and berry products, including banana, mango, passion fruit, guava, pineapple, papaya and coconut. During its tenure, iTi Tropicals has added other exciting ingredients such as tamarind, acerola, lulo, mora-berry, gac and guanabana (soursop).
iTi Tropicals tours the globe to countries such as Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, South Africa and Sumatra, to search for manufacturers who meet its standards. Fruit products are not added to its inventory until they have been sampled and approved by iTi Tropicals’ staff. The company says it only imports fruit from reliable fruit suppliers to its network of U.S. warehouses.
As iTi Tropicals continues to look into the future for even newer tropical and exotic fruits, the company has added a line of exotic products from the South American rainforest and the Far East. The new introductions include acai, acerola, camu camu, dragonfruit, mangosteen, lychee, prickly pear, cocoa fruit and noni. iTi Tropicals constantly is searching for new, commercially viable, tropical fruit flavors.
During its years in business, iTi Tropicals has established numerous long-standing relationships with its suppliers. The exclusive partnerships have enabled the company to guarantee a reliable and quality supply of tropical fruit for its customers. iTi Tropicals also provides complete service with its fruit products, including the expertise of its in-house food scientist with a background in quality assurance and product development.
Many of its tropical fruit processors source the raw tropical fruit from their own plantations while others purchase it from local growers. Matured tropical fruit is harvested and transported to the processing plant. At arrival to the plant, quality control personnel inspect the tropical fruit for ripeness, defects and overall quality and perform laboratory testing before approving the fruit for processing. Pesticide certificates are supplied by the growers.
Tropical fruits are washed and inspected to remove fruits with defects as specified by the quality control department. The fruits are peeled manually for the processing of the IQF products. Once the tropical fruits are properly washed and selected, the juice is extracted, pasteurized and packed frozen or aseptically. The fruit juice can be further passed through an evaporator to remove the water for the manufacturing of the fruit juice concentrates. Aseptic fruit purees and fruit concentrates are filled on U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved aseptic fillers into pre-sterilized, high-barrier aseptic bags.
Trained personnel perform preoperational inspections on the equipment as well as production audits, monitoring compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices and processing controls. Line and finished tropical fruit product samples are tested for compliance with chemical, physical and microbiological standards. Finished products are released by the quality control department based on full compliance with product specifications, and are free from preservatives, the company says.
iTi Tropicals maintains an inventory of both frozen and aseptic tropical and exotic purees, juices and concentrates as well as IQF tropicals throughout the United States. Its fruit products are kosher certified, and are available in pack sizes ranging from 5-gallon pails to 55-gallon drums to 220-gallon drums.
iTi Tropicals’ fruits have a low sodium-to-potassium ratio, and a high vitamin and mineral content. When comparing nutritional value of tropical fruit with more common fruits, tropical fruits fare well, the company says. Though processing into juice slightly alters a fruit’s nutritional contents, tropical fruits compare favorably with their more familiar counterparts in key nutritional components.
Additionally, the "fun-for-you" image of tropical fruit is an advantage that many "good-for-you" foods don't have. â€” iTi Tropicals Inc., 30 Gordon Ave., Lawrenceville, N.J. 08648; 609/987-0550; ititropicals.com.