Chilean Company Specializing in Frozen Products Installs Tomra 5B Sorter in its Berry Processing Plant

According to a company press release, the Chilean company put its trust in TOMRA Food in order to optimize its sorting process and continue to offer premium quality frozen raspberries. Ten years ago, Vitafoods opted for the brand for its blueberry production and acquired TOMRA technology. On the back of their positive experience, they have opted for the TOMRA 5B, a sorter ideal for products that, like frozen raspberries, require delicate handling and high precision when sorting.

Chile is one of the largest exporters of frozen berries and raspberries. “The raspberry is the product with the highest added value when it is whole. When it breaks, a by-product called crumble is produced, which has a considerably lower value. Being able to automatically process IQF raspberries without damaging them or losing value is a great advantage for processors. In addition, our technology is flexible, easy to use, and offers a high yield,’” explains Paola Arévalo, Sales Manager TOMRA Processed Food at TOMRA Food Chile.

The Chilean company Vitafoods is the largest berry processor in Chile and aims to consolidate its position as the country’s largest frozen fruit exporter. It has chosen a TOMRA 5B for the grading of its delicate frozen raspberries. This is a segment with an upward trend. As Fernando Larios, COO of Vitafoods explains: “Consumers, especially during the first wave of the pandemic, were looking for healthy products that would also have a longer shelf life, such as the IQF raspberry.”

The TOMRA Food belt sorter is designed to remove even the smallest foreign materials and defects in fruits and vegetables, guaranteeing the plant’s food safety.

“I truly believe that the TOMRA 5B is unrivalled. It detects the main raspberry defects, such as albinism or sun damage, with high efficiency. Its ability to detect plant matter such as leaves, flower debris, or foreign matter such as plastics and wood, combined with its gentle handling that ensures the product doesn’t break, bring true innovation to its machine segment,” points out Fernando Larios. “Before we installed the TOMRA 5B, we had to assign 18 workers to manual sorting, and they processed 2 tons per hour. With the TOMRA 5B we have been able to process 2.6 to 2.8 tons of raspberries per hour, and we only need 6 workers for this sorting stage. This means we have been able to redeploy the staff to later stages in the process,” says Larios.

The TOMRA 5B also allows the operator to easily adjust the sorting criteria to suit the quality required by the customer and the desired product. By introducing new functionalities that deliver unprecedented accuracy, the TOMRA 5B improves production and increases profitability.

Fernando Larios says: “It treats the product extremely gently, and prevents it from being damaged by free falling. It is a highly hygienic machine, which is now more important than ever. Its software is more intuitive than that of previous sorters. Thanks to all these advantages, we have also set up a program for sorting blackberries on this line, as it can process less delicate products such as blackberries of frozen strawberries.

Vitafoods was born from the merger of the Hortifrut and Alifrut frozen food businesses. Today it exports 93% of its production and relies on more than 300 producers, which positions the company as one of the most powerful companies in the market. In terms of its customer base, the company’s sales from the retail channel (supermarkets and retail outlets) versus bulk sales have grown to almost 50%.

Regarding the trends in the international and domestic raspberry markets, Fernando Larios explains: “The way the agricultural sector operates is changing: we are seeing a trend towards greater use of technology and self-cultivation in the main markets. This makes it possible to achieve the desired product volumes, avoid fluctuations in quality and not depend on suppliers.”

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