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A variety of red, yellow and green apples

A variety of red, yellow and green apples

Research leader Tara McHugh and food technologist John Roberts prepare apple bars .

Dried fruit and vegetable snacks are becoming more popular among U.S. consumers. But these healthy alternatives to traditional snack foods eat up a lot of energy. In fact, in California, the dried fruit and vegetable snack industry is the State’s third-largest energy user.

Fortunately, California also is home to an ARS team in Albany that specializes in researching ways to reduce food-processing wastes and create new, value-added products from agricultural commodities.

With support from the California Energy Commission, the team devised a two-step system that dries fruits and vegetables using 75 percent less energy than traditional methods. Commercial-scale tests of the system, which combines an infrared blanching step with hot-air drying, show that it produces crisp, flavorful snacks from carrot, kale, bell pepper, squash, pear, and apple within an hour.

A private company, Treasure8, is now producing and test-marketing these healthy snack alternatives (beet, apple, sweet potato) under the Ground Rules brands and in private label.

Related Information

Research Project: Commercial Demonstration of Infrared Dry Blanching and Dehydration of Fruits and Vegetables