Fruit packaging with a cherry on top...

SO, there's been much discussion in the office in the last week about cherries. Or perhaps more specifically packaging for cherries and where in the world cherries come from. And I now many people will just think well they come from the supermarket and not think a great deal more about it, but like many fruits, they travel some vast distances, and sometimes originate in some weird and wonderful places.

Now if there was a cherry producing top 10, I think most people would have guessed the USA. Some might have got Russia just because of its sheer size. But who would have got Romania, which in 2010 produced 70,290 metric tonnes of cherries. And looking at the 2010 statistics, based on recent world events, I suspect the Ukraine (number 8) and Syria (number 10) might have slipped out of the world cherry top 10. 

What's apparent from the statistics is that there are few big hitters in the world cherry league; namely Turkey, the USA and Iran. And it is worth pointing out that Turkey produced 417,905 metric tonnes..... in second place the US had in comparison a paltry 284,130 metric tonnes and Iran 255,500 metric tonnes. Those three countries amount for as much production as about the next 15 countries did collectively. 

Recent lifting of restrictions with regards trade in Iran could see the country try to ship more and more of its fruit overseas - and I suspect it won't just be cherries. And here's where the statistics get interesting if you look not at the volume of cherries produced, but at the volume of cherries exported. For exports, the USA and Turkey top the table, but Chile hits third place, followed by Austria and Spain.

Sadly, once again, I suspect Syria in sixth place has fallen away since the 2011 statistics. But there's also rising stars of the cherry world, including Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.

Sirane's absorbent fruit pads are great for cherries, and we also offer an anti-fungal version. For anyone looking to export their cherries they could be a great packaging solution. A cherry pad could make all the difference....

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

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Fruit Focus... always a great event to attend

WE'RE a little sad this week... as we're not able to attend Fruit Focus. For many years Sirane has either taken a small stand at or visited the show in Kent that bills itself as 'the industry's premier fruit event'. And certainly in the UK I wouldn't argue with that billing... it's a great little event, always well attended, and great place to meet a few old faces, talk fruit, and make a few more contacts.

But this year, for various reasons, we just couldn't get there. In previous years we've taken some of our newer products, including our absorbent cushioned fruit pads for soft fruit and our shelf-life extending bags and films, and as fruit packaging solutions both have generated a lot of interest from visitors to the show. Sometimes it's nice to do the smaller, friendlier, less corporate shows... and Fruit Focus always felt a bit like a family gathering. 

Next show on the fruit calendar for Sirane is likely to be Fruit Logistica in Berlin in early 2016, again a well-trodden path for Sirane. 

But anyway, if you're off to Fruit Focus and was hoping to catch someone from Sirane there, sorry.... we couldn't make it. But do get in touch, or failing that we'll probably see you in Berlin.

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

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Ugly fruits coming to a Swedish store near you...

So, the news that attracted my attention today was from Sweden. I think it would not be doing Sweden a disservice to say that it very rarely makes the news. It's not bankrupt, it's not got asylum seekers jumping aboard moving trucks, it's not involved in the Ashes, it just seems to get on with things. Probably in Sweden a Volvo breaking down is front-page stuff.

In fact, I am actually writing, while desperately trying to think of a news story that I remember reading that originated in Sweden and did not involve Sven Goran Erikkson and/or Ulrika Jonsson. And I can't. Anyway, we digress. Where were we, oh yes. News. Sweden. Ugly fruits...

So a supermarket in Sweden, Coop, has committed to selling 'ugly fruit and vegetables'. Now, as all good cryptic crossword lovers will know, there is an 'ugli fruit'. but know, it is not a typo and a story about the exotic fruit aisle, it is a commitment to start selling 'contorted carrots and twisted turnips'. 

According to the story, between 15 and 30% of all fruit and vegetables is wasted before it even reaches the shelves, basically because it is rejected as the supermarkets think that we, the consumer, will not want the weird-looking potato or the abnormally-large aubergine. So the Coop has launched the It's the Inside That Counts campaign, in which said freaky fruits will be packaged and labelled up and sold at a slight discount as opposed to their more aesthetically pleasing soil-mates.

Now, anything that reduces food waste has got to be a good thing, and I for one think this is a great idea. I just just see myself down the supermarket with the children. 'Go and get a big of carrots"... "no, the strange ones, the weirder the better'. After all, they'll taste the same.

So a huge pat on the back for Coop from me for this venture, it will be interesting to see how it pans out and whether the Swedish public take to it.

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING 

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Seafood sales rocket... and so do vegetable sales

Ready Chef Go! bags used for sale of prepared meals

AT Sirane we've been saying for a while that cooking bags can increase sales of seafood, poultry, and even fruit and veg. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating... or in this case the selling, and a recent store trial in the US delivered outstanding results. The trial at a store in Idaho showed a 48% increase in seafood sales over a one-week period – with more than 350 added-value packaged meals sold during the week.

That's a lot of extra fish sold... and bosses of the chain of stores in question were quick to realise that if even a proportion of that figure could be translated to seafood counter sales across the chain of stores it had huge potential... so much so that the group MD dropped in on the last day of the trial to see for himself what all the fuss was about. 

The store used Sirane self-seal steam-cooking bags – sold in the US under the Ready, Chef, Go! brand by Elkay Plastics – to package fresh seafood with flavoured butters as ready meals.

Meals such as Salmon & Asparagus with Brazilian Garlic Butter, Tilapia and Green Beans with Parmesan & Black Pepper Butter, and Peeled Shrimp with Garlic Scampi Butter were created and offered to shoppers as a ‘grab-and-go’ fresh seafood ready meal. Meals were also offered over-the counter at the seafood counter, where customers could choose combinations.

So what's this got to do with me, I hear you ask? Isn't this a fruit and veg site? Well everything. Look closely at the pictures, and you'll see that the grocery store in question didn't just stick butters in with the fish, they added lemon, peppers and asparagus to make the fish dish become a whole ready meal. So sales of asparagus, peppers and lemons were up too that week... And the bags are perfect for selling vegetables with a difference. Forget the fish. How about sprouts with a balsamic bacon butter? How about new potatoes with a maple bourbon butter? Now we're talking... and think how much more money you'd sell those potatoes for.

Elkay Plastics – Sirane’s exclusive distributor in the US and Canada for self-seal steam cooking bags and oven/BBQ bags – devised the Ready, Chef, Go! programme in order to offer grocery stores a complete package which will allow them to grow sales. It is a very interesting concept, and Elkay has thrown a lot of time and resources behind it... as they know in the US and Canada it will work. Elkay is one of the largest distributors in North America into the food service sector, so it is fair to say they know and understand the North American market. And their Ready, Chef, Go! programme is really gathering momentum.

To make the programme easy, a choice of compound sauce, butter and glaze selections devised by chef Eric Carre – a renowned culinary expert specialising in new product development – has been made available to stores using Ready, Chef, Go! This allows grocery stores to up-sell their fish. Instead of a simple fillet of fish sold at, for example, $2, they suddenly have a seafood ready meal that they can sell for $5. That could work for fruit and vegetables too.

Butters offered are: garlic scampi; lemon dill; blackened cajun; lemon herb with sea salt and black pepper; parmesan black pepper; Asian BBQ (Kalbi); unami, garlic swiss; creamy bacon siracha; balsamic bacon; spicy soy and ginger; maple bourbon; Cuban mojo; Brazilian garlic; Thai coconut curry, and margarita citrus splash. Sauces offered are: smoked paprika tomato basil; teriyaki; mango teriyaki; pineapple teriyaki; Thai yellow curry; Thai red curry; tangerine orange, and scampi sauce.

The programme comes with a host of marketing materials – including badges, counter displays, floor pads, and large store banners – as well as training and support. And before anyone asks, I have genuinely no idea whether Ready, Steady, Cook!, Ainsley Harriott, or indeed the whole concept of turning a green pepper or a red tomato to show your favourite dish are known at all in the US? Ready, Steady, Cook!... Ready, Chef, Go!... maybe Elkay could look at daytime TV gold for further inspiration....

Ready, Chef, Go! is also offering oven/BBQ bags, sold in the US as grilling bags. For more information on the Ready, Chef, Go! programme, visitwww.readychefgobags.com

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

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On a mission to find our more about asparagus...

Later this month some of the Sirane team involved in fruit and vegetable packaging are heading for Kidderminster. It's not often we say that, normally it's Berlin for Fruit Logistica, or Madrid for Fruit Attraction.... but this time it is an agronomy day held by the British Asparagus Growers Association near Kidderminster. 

In the UK the asparagus season officially runs from April 23 to Midsummer Day, and due to the short growing season it can command a high price.

It's a complex thing, asparagus. In the UK it is normally green, and only young shoots are eaten, so the growers have to time it right. It is 93% water, low calories, and bursting with goodness. However, in much of western and central Europe asparagus is white, as a result of a blanching technique used while growing. This makes it less bitter and more tender. 

Blanching technique is a very complicated way of saying they pile soil on top of the plants so they get no sunlight. No sunlight, no photosynthesis, no photosynthesis, no colour...

There's also a variety of purple asparagus, developed in Italy and named Violetto d'Albenga.

in 2011 the US imported 174,609 tonnes of asparagus, while Peru exported 376,645 tonnes. Big numbers for something with a short growing season. So the trick must be how to make the most of the product during the short season, and how to make the most of exports. Hence my colleagues' trip to Kidderminster....

As a development company, we're always looking at how to develop products for certain markets and more importantly what products those markets need. So in some ways this is a fact-finding trip as much as anything. But we already know we have some products perfect for asparagus, including our steam-cooking bags where it can be sold with a chilli butter, for example, as a value-added product. We also offer pads and asparagus pouches.

I'm sure after trailing around some farms near Kidderminster we'll have lots more ideas on the products we can offer.

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING

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