Chris Mamas, chief executive of Sydney-based NuBlend, says the process is the exact opposite of freeze-drying: instead of chilling an ingredient and thawing it out, he heats it for a short period under vacuum pressure. Beside better preserving the nutrients, “flash dehydration” is also done at a much lower cost.
“We have a database of over 300 inputs that we can use, including fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and dairy products,” he said. “We’re beating customers off with a stick.”
NuBlend’s focus is currently on apple extracts, which is has been supplying to the pet food industry. It soon hopes to branch out across the wider produce industry, using a supply-centric model that will see its plants based at the heart of produce growing areas, on the premises of its suppliers.
This is to avoid the need for long-distance transportation, and to “grab the raw materials while they are fresh”.
Currently the company has two operational sites; once another three or four open, Mamas will look to gain funding to set up depot-style operations for larger volumes that will service a wider area.
Through its testing, NuBlend has found that 100% of nutrients from apples and other organic material can be recovered once the meals are rehydrated.
“We can recover vitamins and antioxidants—the apples have 3mg per gram of polyphenols, mostly in the skin. This has significant implications for the human consumption market,” Mamas said, adding that the process offers substantial environmental benefits.
For instance, byproducts from fish and meat often cannot be rendered, and so must be disposed of. In comparison, NuBlend’s technology only emits air, which is cleansed.
“We can also work with the sludge that is a byproduct of milk processing, which contains about 50% protein. Normally, there’s no way of treating that—it can’t be rendered and is usually disposed of as waste on land. We can also dehydrate it.
“Not only from a cost saving and an environmentally friendly and socially responsive point of view, companies are being receptive to our approach.”