Thursday, February 22, 2024

Making jackfruit jump off shelves

Australian jackfruit is a tropical treasure: a fruit rich in vitamins, minerals and many phytochemicals that are known to have positive health benefits, and it is incredibly versatile in its culinary uses.

And yet, jackfruit remains an underutilised food source in Australia perhaps due to its spiky exterior, rock hard rind and cumbersome size – a jackfruit can weigh up to 50kg and is the world’s largest tree-grown fruit.

With transportation and labour costs high in Australia, jackfruit production which is predominantly located in the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland, has plateaued in recent years. However, new research has indicated that the industry has the potential to grow significantly with forecasts of production of $5-$10 million by 2025.

Finding new opportunities

In a project funded by AgriFutures Australia as part of its Emerging Industries Program and in conjunction with the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Monash Food Innovation were commissioned to pull jackfruit apart and explore how the industry can drive more consumer demand for the versatile but largely unfamiliar fruit.

Over one thousand consumers were engaged in testing and evaluating jackfruit to determine new consumer applications, the potential to utilise greener fruit with the skin and seeds as by-product, and diverse processing applications for different stages of the fruit’s maturity. This included sensory evaluations, based on sense of taste, smell, texture/feel and sight.

Dr Leonie van ’t Hag from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Monash University says processed jackfruit could be introduced to consumers through familiar formats and new ideas including snacking, treats, meat alternatives, home cooking and restaurants, as well as quick and easy meals.

“There are many opportunities for the Australian jackfruit market to capitalise on the development of new products and to help grow the emerging industry,” Dr van ’t Hag says.

Improving value

Dr Olivia Reynolds from Agrifutures says: “Jackfruit is a nutritious fruit and it is evident that novel processing techniques could appeal to consumers and ensure the industry can maximise its value for production”.

The estimated gross value of production of the Australian jackfruit industry is currently $2.6 million. The research has found that if a quarter of this supply was diverted to processing, an estimated $3.3 million of value would be added each year from existing production.

The findings have now been released in a report Processing jackfruit into ready-to-eat products and ingredients published by AgriFutures Australia which outlines the market opportunities for the industry to grow in Australia.

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