SSS Strawberries, one of Australia’s largest strawberry growers, has opened its 4000 square metre freeze drying factory in the suburb of Thabeban in Bundaberg, Queensland. At capacity, the factory will be able to process more than 2000 tonnes of fruit.
SSS Strawberries’ retail brand Gina’s Table general manager Gina Dang said the company had invested in the factory to help end food waste, with new freeze-drying technology helping it push forward into its next phase.
“The level of innovation now available in freeze dry technology will allow us to take the next steps in value adding to tonnes of strawberries that may have ended up rejected and destroyed in the past due to market conditions.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch fruit that we have grown get rejected and destroyed. We wanted to find a way to ensure that the fruit that can’t be sold due to strict criteria has a second life,” Dang said.
Freeze drying is the process where frozen raw materials are placed in a refrigerated vacuum and ice crystals in the product are sublimated into water vapour, while the cell structure of the original product remains.
The GEA freeze drying machine, sourced from Denmark, allows production applications such as frozen fruit, fruit purees, juices, dairy blends, powders, crumbles and probiotic yoghurts.
“It also helps growers like ourselves to create new and interesting product lines for both the Australian market and export markets. Freeze dried fruits retain their shape integrity, are light weight, have a long shelf life, are GMO free and all natural, and most importantly, it not only keeps but intensifies the flavour,” said Dang.
Bundaberg region mayor Jack Dempsey welcomed the investment made by SSS Strawberries, which he said highlighted the region’s superior soils which made it one of the leading growing regions in Queensland.
“The global food supply stemming from the Bundaberg Region’s ‘food bowl’ perfectly combines our natural competitive advantage with state-of-the-art processing,” Dempsey said.
SSS Strawberries stands for Seven Successful Siblings and is a family business that moved to Bundaberg more than 20 years ago.
“All my brothers and sisters have worked incredibly hard to make this factory the logical next step in our family business. The seeds we are putting down today in opening this factory, plant the future – not only for our business but many others growers in Australia,” said Dang.