How To Process Pineapple Into High Demand Products With Simple Methods Starting From Home
“So far, so good, we are continually making progress, as we have been able to increase our drying capacity. Don’t forget I mentioned that we started with a kitchen dehydrator, which you can’t even get up to one kilogram in a day from, but right now, we are producing about 100 kg a week – this is a very great step forward for us.” – Chinemerem Emeka
That Nigeria is blessed with massive lands for agriculture is a well known fact, but unfortunately, according to research, forty percent of fruits and vegetables that we produce get wasted as a result of inability to preserve them.
For many years, this has posed a challenge to entrepreneurs to find ways of processing and adding value to harvested crops, thereby reducing or totally eliminating the issue of wastage of produce, but not many people have seen the golden opportunity that this challenge brings.
Pineapple is one of the favourite fruits of most people both in Nigeria and in other countries across the globe, with a huge local and international demand. Without preservation, the fruit starts getting bad in a few days.
But pineapple can be processed into eight different products using simple processing methods and sold without preservative. In these forms it can last for up to four months. This provides a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to deliver pineapple products all year round to an already existing market in a much more convenient way than directly eating the fruit.
With some creativity and innovativeness, an entrepreneur can turn any of these products into a household product, something that everyone would love to eat or drink, and he/she will of course be rewarded with riches.
Mr. Chinemerem Emeka is the Director, Living Stone Mega Industry, Iseyin, Oyo State. His company uses a simple processing method in producing foods from a number of fruits and vegetables, including mangoes, tomatoes, pineapples, and peppers.
In this interview, he speaks particularly on pineapple processing, but also gives general tips on succeeding as a small scale food processor, as well as the profitable business opportunities in the agric sector of the economy. Enjoy it!
What Is Pineapple Processing All About?
Pineapple, just like every other agricultural produce, can be processed into various forms. Now, let me be general about others and specifically spend more time on the particular one we do on mass production level. So, pineapple is a good crop that is 100 percent useful – there is no part of it that is a waste, as every part of it can be converted into one useful need or the other.
Processing wise, pineapple can be processed into Fruit Juice, Fruit Jam, Vinegar, Fruit Wine, the Peels and Bromelain which is, in terms of enzymes can be extracted from pineapple, the supposed Solid Wastes can also be dried and used as concentrate for animal feeds. You can also do Pineapple Candy – a further processing method where you cook pineapple slices or dices with candy or chocolate, usually for children and lastly, you can also process it into Dried Fruit Snacks.
Presently, we produce dried fruit snacks, apart from the pineapple type; we produce dry mango, coconut, banana, and pawpaw. Now, for the candy pineapple, it is very simple and straight forward to make, depending on whatever recipe the producer decides to adopt, as most of these recipes are different depending on what the total objective of the producer is.
For instance, vinegar can be produced in two major ways – either by alcohol fermentation or acetic acid fermentation.
Now, detailed processing method of our focused area – Dried Fruit Snacks, takes us through the harvesting of pineapple, removing it, and dicing it into the required shapes, after which we dehydrate.
Meanwhile, dehydration for pineapple typically takes about sixteen hours. This is because it is not like the normal average drying; it is a kind of specialized drying such that, even after the drying has taken place, most of the nutrients are still preserved.
So, it doesn’t use direct drying, what it does is that it uses hot air over prolong period. Normally, if we were to use an oven to dry pineapple or any other fruit, it should be done in an hour, but it will result in loss of nutrients because at high temperature most living fruits undergo defecation.
Therefore, the idea in either dehydrating or drying of fruits is to make sure that while you are getting the required result that you need, you are not ending up serving people with sub-standard processed dried fruit snacks. After drying, you have to condition it, then you package it in suitable packs, and finally marketing comes in.
Why Do We Process Pineapple?
Research shows that it is important to know the nutritional value of what we produce – as there is need to ask ourselves about the physical and chemical properties of what we do.
Generally, it is obvious that fruits supply minerals and vitamins when eaten. So, a daily intake of a cup of pineapple juice contains 76 percent of magnesium and about 131 percent of vitamin C.
Candidly corroborating the above research statement, Emeka further says that pineapple has a very short shelf life – in fact, if not well handled, it barely stays more than a week outside preservation for it to start spoiling.
Even if you refrigerate, the process in refrigeration – period between frozen and defrosting will eventually ensure that you won’t get that original freshness associated with pineapple and it can also lead to spoilage. So, because of its low shelf life, it is more convenient to convert pineapple and any other fruit into a form that increases its shelf life.
For instance, the dried pineapple we produce, without any chemical additive or preservative, can last up to four months and the shelf life can even be increased more if vacuum packaging is used, so that oxidation doesn’t take place.
So, the major reason pineapple is processed, apart from the fact that people enjoy eating the other forms as well, is just to extend the shelf life. Another reason is that it gives you the potential to be available all year round. For instance, I might want to take pineapple while I go for a business meeting, but I don’t want the juice, I can keep pineapple in my bag as dried fruit – eat it when I feel like and it stands no chance of ruining my clothes, but it is rather easy and convenient to take.
Are There Other Detailed Processes Involved In Pineapple Processing?
Well, there are not really other detailed processes once you have gone through the above mentioned stages – it is simple, straight forward and not something very complex. The only time you start thinking about complex pineapple processing is when you are going into making pineapple fruit wine, as it is a little more technical for just a road side person to go into.
Also, the bromelain extraction of enzymes from pineapple peelings is something very technical – apart from the knowledge; you will need very complex equipment called “Super Critical Co2 Extractor.”
How Can It Be Done Well To Enhance Profitability?
As earlier mentioned, I will say it depends on which one the person is doing – talking from the perspective of dried pineapple fruit; firstly, the best way is to start from sourcing the best varieties based on what your target market wants.
For instance, when we started, we were buying the Cotonou (Benin Republic) type of pineapple, but while we were marketing it, people were asking whether we added sugar – people really complained of too much sugar because the variety is very sweet. So, we have to change based on what we considered as our addressable market.
Success in pineapple processing starts with understanding the variety, understanding what you want to do and the impact of the variety on it.
For instance, if I want to commercialize pineapple fruit juice, I will stick to the Cotonou variety. So that in sourcing you have to make sure that you get the right variety and also make sure you understand the market – when and where is best to buy. This is because the bulk of whether what you are doing is going to be profitable or not lies in the raw materials – in fact, the greatest cost in what you do comes from the raw materials.
Secondly, as you grow in business, you need to make sure that you begin to make plans to have your own order from your own source (pineapple farm), as I have said, the major cost in pineapple processing comes from the raw materials. So, as much as you can cut down cost you will increase your chances of profitability.
Thirdly, pineapple takes sixteen hours to dry, so one of the tricks is making sure that where you are doing your processing is well aerated. It should not be somewhere that is stuffy because, if the hot air that is coming out doesn’t have an escape route and the humidity level of the room goes high, it increases the processing time which means you should expect to consume more energy either in fuel or electricity bill cost.
Does Pineapple Processing Involves The Use Of Machines, If Yes, What Are The Costs?
Of course, at an industrial scale, it involves the use of machines – from the preparatory stage, you will need a peeler, slicer, and dehydrator as the major equipment. After drying you don’t just pack it, you will need a conditioner, and after conditioning you will need to have packaging equipment.
However, for those producing for their own consumption or on a very small scale, you don’t need to have a peeling machine, you can do it manually by using your kitchen knife to peel, after peeling, you remove the eyes and cores and cut into any shape of your choice.
After these, you can dry it with a very small kitchen dehydrator. Though, it won’t take you much time for it to get dehydrated, but the quantity you can do per time is very small. After this, you can just use your normal sealing machine to package it.
So, for someone who wants to do pineapple processing on a small scale commercial production, with ready raw materials on ground, your equipment cost should not be more than N150,000.
What Is The Startup Capital?
Like I always say, the beauty of any business that is going to be successful is scalability – being able to scale down cost of production. The cost of startup depends on the scale you want to start with. As earlier mentioned about starting with a kitchen dehydrator, we actually started with it. You are starting with just a kitchen dehydrator doesn’t mean that what you are doing won’t be profitable.
With N150,000, you can get started on a small scale with a single kitchen dehydrator and other equipment, but on an industrial scale, a commercial dehydrator costs about N1.4 million or N1.5 million, depending on the exchange rate. So, by the time you factor in cost of raw materials, among others, you should be talking about N5 million to N7 million to startup profitably.
By the way, we just started something recently as our way of giving back to the society, encouraging and helping other young Nigerians like myself who want to start something and they don‘t know how to start.
We organize trainings where we teach them how to go about all these processes and after the training, for those who are ready, that is those who have their startup capital, when they produce we buy from them and package it at an agreed price. This is because some of them might be battling with the problem of who to buy from them.
How Can It Be Done Minimally For Those With Little Or No Capital?
Well, defining little or no capital in terms of N50,000, they can go into pineapple processing, but it will not be dried fruit snacks. Better still, it is also good if we can get a pool of such people, they can actually come together, if they must do something on dried pineapple snacks.
However, there are other pineapple processing chains, like the pineapple juice – it doesn’t cost a lot to do it, as with N50,000, you can start processing pineapple juice. So, to do this on a very small scale, after you have gotten your pineapple, peel, wash, and grate it into a pop. Add little water and then you filter it.
After you are done with filtering, you put it on a heat source with a view to cooking the juice to about 80 degree centigrade and maintain the temperature for about five minutes, put it in a container, seal it up, and put it in a boiling water bag for 15 minutes to condition it – that is all, you have your pineapple fruit juice. So, it doesn’t need much equipment or any special thing to do pineapple juice.
What Is The Return On Investment Like?
I will say that the business of pineapple processing is very lucrative to sustain ones needs. Meanwhile, the return on investment is about 30 percent (plus) of what you invest – subject to your management.
Are Nigerians Really Looking Into The Direction Of Pineapple Or Other Fruit Processing?
Well, few people are going into pineapple processing. The truth still remains that it is one area that really needs a boost – presently, as I speak to you, 40 percent of all fruits we produce in the country is tagged as wastage and if I must say this, the fruit processing business is a $4 billion industry. So, if some of these wastages could be converted, it is substantial enough. It is an area that needs to be looked into by aspiring entrepreneurs.
Why Is It That People Are Not Really Looking At The Processing Direction?
From my own experience, the reason agric business and processing continue to suffer in Nigeria is as a result of lots of inconsistencies between what the government says and what is actually on ground. For instance, we produce up to seven varieties of dried fruits, we use the same equipment for drying and we package them for sales. But when we go for registration in NAFDAC, we have to register each of them separately and it is the same rate irrespective of just starting or you are a conglomerate – this costs a lot of money. There is no incentive for startups, SMEs or young person trying to break out. So, some of those policies that are inconsistent with what should be key drivers and frameworks for SMEs in the country are lacking.
Also, the agricultural industry is not streamlined – for instance, a farmer produces pineapple and taking it to the market, he is going to be charged for produce pack at almost every local government he passes, then the buyer has to pay – there are multiple taxations across every point of the value chain and that shouldn’t be. Let’s now say there is need for multiple taxations, there should be tax relief for people who are just trying to break into the industry.
Yet another challenge to processing and manufacturing of fruit or any other thing is the issue of power supply. I did mention that pineapple takes sixteen hours to dry – imagine running generator for such hours, you know what it costs.
Where/How Is The Market Like?
Presently, the market is highly underserved both locally and internationally. The export potential of processed pineapple fruits, among others is enormous, as some of the countries that do not lie within the tropical belt buy it and it is alarming that despite the level of pineapple and other tropical fruits we produce in Nigeria, we have not really taken the advantage of the huge vacuum that exist therein – most of our produces when it comes to fruits and all that are not really exported.
One of the reasons for this is the issue of traceability, which is something the government is working on through the National Quality Infrastructure Project. When the issue of traceability can be solved, it will be much easier to export made-in-Nigeria products abroad and it will stimulate new entrants into the processing industry because the stigma for Nigerian goods is that of not knowing where the crop was grown, the state of the soil, among others; but concerted efforts are now being made to solve that problem.
What Prompted You To Go Into The Business Of Pineapple Processing?
As mentioned earlier, it is not that I just went into pineapple processing alone; I went into agriculture in general as I started cultivating some hectares of land. But behind my going into agriculture was an underline passion to see, at least how to add value to a major part of our agricultural produce before exporting them.
Then I looked at the area that is the most hard-nut to crack – you won’t believe the statistics concerning the amount of fruits and vegetables that waste in our markets. So, I looked at a sector where I could make a difference, as I studied mechanical engineering and to an extent there was an ease of entry in the processing of agric produce – that was why I chose to begin by drying fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, pepper, among others, and I processed them into powder.
What Are Your Achievements So Far In Agricultural Processing?
So far, so good, we are continually making progress, as we have been able to increase our drying capacity. Don’t forget I mentioned that we started with a kitchen dehydrator, which you can’t even get up to one kilogram in a day from, but right now, we are producing about 100 kg a week – this is a very great step forward for us.
We are also gradually building our brand and it is getting a little known in the market. We are making progress in all rounds, though there are lots more to be put in place.
What Do You Envisage For Pineapple And Other Fruits Processing Industries In The Nearest Future?
Well, from everything I’m seeing – the concerted effort, not just from the government, but the global view to end extreme poverty and hunger, as spearheaded by the World Bank, I am envisaging a situation where the processing industry is going to be more liberalized and it will grow.
In fact, in the nearest future, it will be hard to see or spot any single Nigerian agricultural produce that will leave this country without value addition – that day is coming and it is nearby already!
What Is Your Advice For New Entrants Into The Business And Nigerians As A Whole?
My advice for anybody who wants to go into agric business is to firstly test the market by finding out what the market is made up of. I will say it is not easy to rely completely on all these seminar-giving-people who don’t have any experience – they reel out all manner of statistics, telling you how you can ride a jeep in one year from farming and that you will sell anything, without any practical sense to substantiate the facts they are reeling out.
For instance, I visited a community in Oyo State, they have stockpile of yams and they don’t know how to sell them. So, I was looking at the direction of setting up a yam flour mill in there. Don’t just make assumptions without testing the market, because at the end of the day, it is the bottom-line that counts. If you produce and are not able to sell, what you are doing is not business, but hobby.