The apple processing cooperative VOG Products as a role model for minimizing postharvest crop losses – an empirical case study from South Tyrol, Italy

C. Fischer, C. Tappeiner
Globally, 22% of fruit and vegetables are lost on their way from the orchard to the distribution stage of the supply chain. In addition to lost nutrients, this creates environmental costs in terms of wasted land, water, inputs, labor and produces greenhouse gas emissions thus contributing to global warming. The UN Sustainable Development Goals call explicitly for reducing food losses along production and supply chains by 2030. This study aims at describing starting points for reducing crop losses at the harvest and postharvest stages of the apple supply chain. We present an innovative enterprise which through its various processing and product development activities significantly reduces fruit losses in one of the world’s biggest apple-producing areas (South Tyrol–Trentino, Italy). By describing the activities of the cooperative VOG Products, the impacts of organizational and technological innovations on the reduction of food losses are revealed. This sustainability assessment uses the case study method, i.e., an in-depth, detailed examination of a particular example within a real-world context. VOG Products processes around 300,000 tonnes of apples each year, an estimated 70-80% of national processing apples. We show that through the processing of apples that do not meet fresh-fruit quality standards and of apples discarded from long-term storage, industry postharvest losses are significantly reduced. Moreover, the industry’s financial investments for achieving this large-scale reduction have been fully amortized – VOG Products is a profitable commercial enterprise that generates significant financial value for its members (about €40 million in annual pay-outs). The producer organization also successfully implements circular economy measures and through new-product development sustainably leverages the commercial success of small-scale fruit growers. Hence, we show that food losses are not inevitable. Through organizational measures and technological investments, losses can be significantly reduced. In addition, as this case study demonstrates empirically, food loss reduction activities can also generate economic value thus representing a sustainable, triple-win situation for farmers, consumers and the environment. Others should learn from it.
Fischer, C. and Tappeiner, C. (2023). The apple processing cooperative VOG Products as a role model for minimizing postharvest crop losses – an empirical case study from South Tyrol, Italy. Acta Hortic. 1380, 145-152
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1380.18
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1380.18
food losses, sustainability, fruit, processing, value added, impact assessment
English

Acta Horticulturae