A pilot study to market dehydrated fruit on the Western Slope shows promise
Colorado State University along with Delta County and several area fruit growers have joined forces with the Food Bank of the Rockies in Mesa County to determine the viability of dehydration as a value-added activity for fruit labeled as “seconds.”
Nicole Didero, CSU Regional Extension Specialist, located at the Western Colorado Research Center-Rogers Mesa, says dehydrating perishable produce cuts down on waste, and makes shelf-stable, nutritious forms of fruit and vegetables available year-round.
The Western Slope branch of the Food Bank of the Rockies already dehydrates fruit to distribute to clients and is the only dehydration program among the 200 Feeding America food banks. The pilot project on the Western Slope of Colorado began this June just as fruit began coming in.
Didero says “a ton of data” from the pilot study has now been collected and is undergoing analysis. To find out what consumers think of the dehydrated fruit grown and processed at the Food Bank, Didero says another CSU campus will get involved.
All the data gathered from the project will be put into usable information that can then be used to create spin-off businesses for entrepreneurs and ag producers looking to cash in on dehydrating fruit for potential consumers.
Initial feedback from fruit producers showed some enthusiasm among consumers visiting their local farmers' market where the dried fruit was available in small 2-ounce packages.
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