The company, which is a subsidiary of Royal Cosun, already had a laboratory as part of its R&D set up in Etten-Leur, The Netherlands, that was able to supply some product samples in relatively small sizes.
Art Duits, R&D manager at SVZ, told FoodNavigator.com that the new plant can handle batches of up to four tonnes, depending on the product. The decision to build the new pilot plant was largely driven by customer needs: they want a bigger sample quantities for internal process research, or for consumer research such as acceptance tests.
In addition, the material samples that could be produced in the laboratory were not representative of the process used at a factory level. This could, in some cases, affect the quality of the research if the findings for lab samples were to be applied to samples for commercialisation.
“Now we can use the same process,” he said.
SVZ has factories for the supply of commercial volumes of its fruit and veg ingredients in The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, USA and Morocco.
But before they put in an order for large quantities of ingredients, consumer testing is very important for brand manufacturers; as they want to make sure that a product will be a success.
“They don’t want to waste advertising money on a product that doesn’t work,” said Duits.
In terms of market trends, Duits said that red fruits are a major area of focus at the moment, as there is considerable interest in harnessing their antioxidant and health benefits.
At the same time, however, red fruits are relatively expensive and in the current climate of high costs manufacturers are looking at ways to use cheaper, more traditional fruits in products.
Part of SVZ’s R&D work involves coming up with new product concepts that it can propose to customers to show, for example, “what is possible with certain fruits like acai and goji”.
Again, the first question that comes back to the company is always on price. Thus, Duit and his 16-strong R&D team have to ensure they are envisaging a suitable target market for a product.
Overall, SVZ sees the juice and beverage sector as the biggest for its products. Dairy and ice cream products also make up important markets, followed, to a smaller extent, by bakery.
As a direct result of healthier eating tendencies, there has been a big boost in fruit smoothies in the UK in the last five years – and the trend catching on in other countries.
“We see the same thing happening in Eastern Europe. People are more aware of products with sugar, water and citric acid – although there will always be a market for that kind of product.”
As well as facilitating its customer’s research, SVZ conducts its own process research on how to keep anti-oxidants non-oxidised and therefore active – and to keep the vitamin C levels as high as possible.
It does not investigate health benefits of antioxidants and juices per se, since that kind of clinical work is more aligned with medical research – however it does keep an eye on what fruit-related research is taking place.
That means it is in a position to advice its customers on what health claims could be acceptable on their products, said Duits.