Sweet Potatoes Australia | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
When it comes to the premium fresh market, all vegetables are not created equal, with every crop containing a percentage of yield that falls outside of size and shape limits imposed by wholesale and retail customers.
As New Product Development and Commercialisation Manager at Sweet Potatoes Australia, Cassandra Budd is charged with identifying new opportunities and markets to utilise the entire harvest. Taking inspiration from other microwave-in-the-bag products, Cassandra embarked on a project to develop microwaveable sweet potato designed to offer quick and simple preparation.
The project entailed plenty of learning on the go. As with all fresh food, sweet potatoes continue to consume oxygen and produce CO2 and water post-harvest, presenting significant packaging challenges to mitigate condensation, water build- up, bacterial growth and spoilage.
Cassandra accessed FIAL’s matched funding program to research and better understand the influence of environmental conditions on the product, with the ultimate view of developing packaging that offers optimal shelf life.
Sweet Potatoes Australia worked with CQUniversity to develop models and understand the relationship between the temperature and respiration rate of the product, the permeability of the packaging material and the additional requirements necessitated by the cooking method.
The model proved that the team was on the right track with initial designs. It also highlighted potential issues with cold chain management, enabling measures to be implemented before problems arose. Success of the modelling means it will be used to prove future packaging designs in the early stages.
Additional upcoming projects include a sweet potato puree product and the first Australian grown sweet potato chip.