With around 80,000 tonnes per year, Spain is the most important producer of avocados in Europe. A renowned leader in this market is Frutas Montosa, founded in 1982 and located at the very heart of the avocado homeland in the South of Spain. Based on strong marketing and R&D, the company today offers a wide range of fresh and processed fruit, ranging from delicious guacamole to whole fresh mangoes. We spoke with Federico Montosa, General Manager, about Frutas Montosa’s continuous effort to improve its product portfolio, and how high pressure processing (HPP) combined with SEALPAC packaging equipment assists the company in achieving its goals.
True family company
In 1982, José Luis Montosa writes the first lines of the story of a boy who dreams of bringing top-notch fruit to the Spanish marketplace. Thirty five years later, Frutas Montosa (www.frutasmontosa.com) employs over 400 people and achieves a turnover of approximately € 100 million. Located near the city of Málaga, at the heart of subtropical Spain, the company has shown significant growth in the past decades. Federico Montosa, son of the founder José Luis Montosa, explains: “Taking advantage of the privileged conditions of our surroundings, we set out to be a different company with all employees driven by the same passion: to provide the best fruit in the world.” Being a true family company, Federico Montosa has always been connected to its daily activities, but he officially joined Frutas Montosa as General Manager five years ago.
What sets Frutas Montosa apart is its devotion to highest quality. Federico Montosa: “Based on our thirty five years of experience and know-how, we have been able to improve the quality of our fresh and processed fruit by using advanced technologies. High pressure processing, for example, allows us to maintain the freshness of our products while increasing their shelf life. Our aim is always to provide the finest, perfectly-ripened fruit. We even developed our own Avocado Physiological Maturity (APM) index, from which we know in detail the internal state and maturity of each avocado.”
Fully automated processing and packaging
With sensitive products like mangoes and avocados, immaculate processing and packaging is crucial. This not only applies to Frutas Montosa’s bestseller (guacamole in trays of 200g or 500g), but also to the company’s recently introduced mango dip. The general procedure for both products is the same. First, the fruit is manually peeled and the pit removed. After that, it enters the fully automated process of squashing and mixing. The resulting dip is then pushed through pipes to the dosing system that is positioned above the packaging line. This line starts with denesting of the trays by means of SEALPAC’s AS-LS1200 servo linear denester. The trays are transported to the Dosimaq filling system, which accurately deposits the required amount of guacamole or mango dip. After hermetic sealing on a SEALPAC traysealer and checking their weight, the trays are collected on a rotating table. The operator places the sealed trays in a torpedo and loads these into a high pressure processing unit, where they are subjected to a pressure of 6,000 bars. As a final step, the pressure-treated trays are taken from the torpedo and transported to the lidding system.
The benefits of high pressure processing
Montosa: “Our company is proud to produce the most acclaimed products in the market and apply the most advanced technology around to create their healthy and tasty recipe. We have been pioneers in using high pressure processing (HPP) technology for our avocados and mangoes. This technology, which inactivates pathogens, allows us to keep the original freshness of the fruit, while extending its shelf life. As no heat treatment, additives or chemicals are used, the structure and taste of the product remain intact. Owing to HPP technology, the shelf life of our guacamole is 35 days, while we mention a shelf life of 25 days for our mango dip.” Frutas Montosa currently owns two HPP units from Avure: a larger AV-30 unit for its guacamole and a smaller AV-10 unit for its ‘salsa de mango’.
When using HPP, due to the enormous pressure applied to the sealed product, choosing the right combination of film and tray was not easy. Montosa: “What made it even more difficult is that we wanted to have a peelable film, so that the consumer can open the tray easily, and that we selected a tray with a small sealing edge. Together with SEALPAC, we did several tests that allowed us to optimize the process, and which reduced leakers to the very minimum.” The trays are produced with in-mould label. This label not only gives a higher barrier, hence improving shelf life, but also provides more stability in the HPP process. Furthermore, the in-mould label offers excellent branding opportunities.
The growing contribution of SEALPAC equipment
In 2012, to keep up with the growing demand for guacamole, Frutas Montosa bought its very first SEALPAC A6 traysealer. This machine was installed by EMO S.A., distributor for SEALPAC thermoformers and traysealers in Portugal and Spain. Montosa: “The performance of the SEALPAC A6 traysealer, which combines flexibility with significant output, was clearly better than that of other equipment around. Nowadays, we actually have four SEALPAC A6 traysealers and one SEALPAC A4 traysealer for packaging our full range of products. We selected the smaller SEALPAC A4 for our recently introduced mango dip, as it seemed appropriate in the start-up phase of this new product. Now that its sales have taken of, we are already discussing the options for more capacity, for example in the area of HPP and lidding.”
EMO’s ability to provide immediate service and maintenance for these machines is a first requirement, but there is more to being a good partner. Montosa: “On our website we write ‘Our suppliers are part of the team. We share all the knowledge we have available with them to promote innovation. Thanks to this approach, we achieve extraordinarily high quality’. This also applies to our relationship with EMO, as they are proactively assisting us in product development and further optimization of our production processes.”
Continuous product development
Traditionally, Frutas Montosa’s main product has been guacamole, which it sells to retailers in Spain, but which it also exports to various countries in Europe (especially France and Germany) or even to Mexico. In addition, the company sells whole fresh avocados, for which it developed a new type of packaging several years ago. By placing two avocados in a two-compartment tray, with each compartment shaped to the avocado, it is now able to market these commodity products with added value. Securely sealed on a SEALPAC traysealer, these products are easily stacked and transported. Furthermore, the sealed tray allows for an attractive and tamper-proof presentation at retail. As a result, the new pack design has now also been adopted for whole fresh mangoes. Montosa: “One of the benefits of the SEALPAC traysealers is that they can handle different packaging systems by means of a simple tool exchange. This allows us to run new pack designs on the same base machine, even after several years.”
If asked about trends in packaging, Federico Montosa touches the subject of sustainability: “Retailers demand packaging that optimizes transport, minimizes waste and entices consumers to buy. Although our heat-sealed trays are working very well, we cannot forget the fact that some of our target markets are becoming more reluctant to the use of plastic. This will lead to the use of recyclable materials that generate less waste. Other trends we see, is the growing demand for ready-to-eat products and portion-packaging. Be assured that Frutas Montosa will continue to develop new products and packaging formats in the coming years.