B.C. firm commercializes fruit dehy process

A Richmond, B.C. blueberry producer has become the first buyer of a Vancouver company’s new food dehydration process, with which it plans to produce “puffed” berries for snack foods and further processing.

Cal-San Enterprises, a blueberry and cranberry farming, processing and winemaking operation owned by the Sandhu family of Richmond, has entered into a licensing and royalty deal with Vancouver’s EnWave Corp., which developed the NutraREV food dehydration system.

“With this sale, EnWave has proven that it can produce shelf-stable, ‘puffed’ blueberries on a commercial scale over a full operating shift,” EnWave said in a release Monday.

EnWave’s deal with Cal-San includes a license providing EnWave with a royalty of up to 10 per cent of Cal-San’s gross revenues from the sale of dried food products processed using the NutraREV technology.

The deal also gives Cal-San a number of exclusive uses of the technology as it relates to the North American dried blueberry market.

EnWave said in its release that its NutraREV technology will compete directly with the current industry standard in food dehydration, freeze drying, and is designed to require about a third of the energy of freeze drying at a sixth of the capital cost. Future sales of the system will range in price between US$800,000 and US$1 million, EnWave said.

EnWave said its pre-commercial test results with various fruits, vegetables and herbs showed that the finished products retain “excellent colour, flavour and texture, with similar nutrients and shelf-life to freeze drying, and at a variety of moisture contents as required by the target market.”

The Vancouver firm said it chose blueberries as the first market for the commercial-scale technology because of the volume of fresh and frozen product available locally.

The process created “puffed” blueberries, which EnWave called “a major improvement compared to conventional freeze-dried blueberries which typically collapse into a raisin-like appearance.”

EnWave said its short-term goal now is to pursue the North American market for dehydrated tomatoes, potatoes, onions, herbs, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and sour cherries, a market it estimates as worth about US$1.2 billion.

Over the longer term, EnWave said, it will search for a global manufacturing and distribution partner to handle service and support for the NutraREV equipment.

Cal-San, meanwhile, said it will continue to develop a global wholesale and retail distribution network for the sale of its new dried blueberry products, which it said can be used as snack foods and as ingredients for cereals, energy bars and baking.

Cal-San president Dave Sandhu, whose business has over 200 acres in production and processing capacity for up to seven million pounds of fruit per year, said his company also plans to expand into other dried fruit product areas.

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