Apple juice, jams and cider have long been worth the squeeze, despite roughly one-third of the fruit being wasted during processing. Now Cornell research aims to turn the nutritious leftovers into snack foods and cereals, reducing waste and creating new economic opportunities for New York companies.
Processing apples into food products leaves behind pomace – the skin, seeds, core, stems and soft tissue of the fruit. Approximately 25 to 40 percent of apples and other fruits end up as pomace, which has little economic value and pollutes the environment.
Syed Rizvi, International Professor of Food Process Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has received matching grants of $540,000 from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the New York Apple Association. The more than $1 million investment will aid the development of technologies to preserve the nutritional quality of pomace and convert it into edible foods with high nutritional content.
Roughly one-third of all apples grown in the U.S. are used for processing. On average, New York produces nearly 30 million bushels each year: That’s roughly 240,000 tons of New York apples that are processed annually, resulting in about 80,000 tons of pomace.
“About one-third of food waste occurs during food processing operations and represents tremendous amounts of nutrition and energy,” said Rizvi. “Value recovery from these resources to health-beneficial products using novel technologies is both a necessity and a challenge that we propose to address in this research.”
Rizvi's previous research has centered on delivering value to global markets and enhancing the safety and quality of food systems. His work integrating both the physical and life sciences has resulted in novel technologies and products that improve the profitability of food manufacturers and viability of farms. In his other related research he has studied recovery of whey protein from milk before cheese making, conversion of broken rice into puffed rice kernel, the sweetener Stevia, shelf-life extension of potatoes and numerous other products. His group also developed and patented a novel supercritical fluid extrusion process for making puffed products at low temperatures, which he plans to use in this work.
Pomace currently is used as animal feed or is thrown out. Finding ways to convert the waste – which is rich in fiber, vitamins, polyphenols, antioxidants and other nutritional compounds – into value-added products is a goal of the apple industry.
Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director, said the project holds promise for solving environmental problems and providing economic opportunities for producers.
“Reducing agricultural waste benefits farmers, consumers and the environment,” she said. “It is a shame to waste a nutritionally potent byproduct like pomace, and we are thrilled that Cornell is looking to use this product, thereby reducing food waste and increasing the nutritional content of snacks.”
The New York apple industry provides $574 million in annual economic impact for the state. Converting waste into new economic streams stands to benefit apple processers across New York.
Cynthia Haskins, president of the New York Apple Association, said: “We are looking forward to the research demonstrating innovative and new solutions for apple pomace. Converting byproducts into foods of high nutritional qualities is relevant to the needs of food processors and consumers.”
Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, is a board member at FFAR.