Fruit and Vegetable Juice and Nectars
100% fruit juices, nectars, juices and pulp. The market offers a wide range of products with fruit as an ingredient. Both fruit juices and fruit nectars are governed by European legislation. In fact, according to Directive 2001/112/EC and subsequent updates (2012/12 EU of 19 April 2012), fruit juice is a fermentable, but not fermented product, obtained from the edible parts of healthy ripe fruit, fresh or preserved by refrigeration or freezing, belonging to one or more fruit species and having the characteristic colour, smell and flavour of the fruit it is obtained from. The smell, pulp and cells obtained from the same species of fruit by suitable physical processes may be added to the juice. Let’s take a look at the most popular products...
100% Fruit Juice
This product is obtained entirely from squeezed fruit. Like the whole fruit, the juice is made up of about 90% water, vitamins, mineral salts and phytochemicals deriving from the squeezed fruit, and the remaining 10% is the fruit’s natural sugars. European legislation does not permit the addition of preservatives, sugars and flavourings to 100% fruit juice. Nevertheless, WHO places sugars contained in fruit juices in the category of “free sugars”.
This is the product obtained from fruit juice or fruit puree, or both, to which water and possibly sugar or sweeteners are added. The addition of a very limited number of additives is also allowed, which essentially perform an antioxidant or acidifying function, while the use of preservatives, food colourings and flavourings is prohibited. European legislation establishes that in Italy nectars obtained exclusively from fruit puree can be defined as “succo e polpa di… (juice and pulp of ...)”. Nectar is usually produced with fruit with a lot of pulp, such as pears, peaches and apricots. According to the Directive, the minimum amount of fruit in the nectar must be between 25 and 50%, depending on the type of fruit. For the most well-known and most consumed nectars in Italy (orange, pear, peach, apricot, apple), the minimum percentage of fruit is 50% (40% for apricot). Although the Directive allows for the addition of sugars to nectars, up to a maximum of 20% of the total weight of the finished product, the actual average amount of added sugars for products manufactured in Italy is between 8 and 10%, depending on the type of fruit.
Products that do not fall under the classification “juice (100% fruit)” or “fruit nectars”, come under the category of fruit-based drinks.
Juices and pulp were invented in Italy in the 1960s, when the canning industry established itself by processing the typical national fruit: pears, peaches, apples and apricots are all fruit with a lot of pulp, which can’t be “squeezed”, and therefore it must be processed until it is reduced to a puree. The Italian term for these fruit juices is "succo e polpa", and as the products were recognised as being typically Italian, the first European Directive in the 1970s left the name in Italian without translating it.
MACRO SECTORAL STATISTICS
By virtue of a wide and diversified range in product types as well as formats, as well as in tastes, the Italian market for fruit and vegetable juices and nectars reached 537 million liters in 2021 for a total value of 671 million euros which - beyond the dominance of Germany, France and the UK - see Italy among the main markets at European level.
PRODUCTION PROCESS - FRUIT NECTARS
The production process for nectar involves two stages: transforming the fruit to puree (semi-finished product) and the puree to nectar. This is because fruit like apricots and peaches are only available for a very short period and they are delicate, so preserving them is impossible. The fruit is harvested, washed, pitted, chopped and sieved. Once the pulp has been obtained, ascorbic acid is added to avoid variations in colour. The pulp is pasteurised at 100 °C for 30 seconds.
This heat treatment aims to:
- inactivate the enzymes that cause the pulp to turn brown (pigment oxidation);
- inactivate pectinolytic enzymes (these enzymes destroy pectin that can cause a decrease in viscosity, an undesired phenomenon because the juice must have a certain viscosity);
- kill microorganisms;
The semi-finished product is then transferred to aseptic tanks and stored until it is time for the puree to be transformed into nectar. The first stage of this transformation involves mixing the puree with other ingredients (water, sugar, citric and ascorbic acids), which are stored in separate tanks.
The nectar is then pasteurised (HTST - High Temperature Short Time - pasteurisation by means of a heat exchanger), after which it can be either cooled and packed in aseptic packaging, like juices packed in cartons, or packed while still hot in glass bottles, which are then passed through heated tunnels to complete the pasteurisation process.
PRODUCTION PROCESS - FRUIT JUICES
Fruit juice is obtained by removing all or most of the fibre from the puree. Examples: orange juice and apple juice.
Orange juice is prepared by extracting the internal part of the fruit with special machines called extractors, after which the juice is separated from the fibrous part with sieves and filters. The juice is then concentrated to eliminate most of the natural water content, allowing it to last longer and reduce storage volume. Before being packed for consumers, the juice is returned to its initial state by adding back the water extracted in the concentration stage with drinking water, after which it is pasteurised and packed in aseptic packaging.
The production process for apple juice, on the other hand, is different. The apples are crushed (they are particularly resistant to extraction) with the addition of an extraction aid (usually enzymes that dissolve the fibres) to facilitate the extraction of the juice and increase the extraction yield. The “pure juice”, i.e. the cloudy juice, is obtained by pressing. To maintain this cloudiness, the juice is subjected to heat treatment at about 100 °C, in order to inactivate the pectinolytic enzymes that would attack the pectin, leading to the clarification of the product. Ascorbic acid is then added to avoid colour variations. To obtain clear juice, the extracted juice is filtered and then heat treated.