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PICKLES AND PICKLE PRODUCTS’ MARKET
Pickle is form of a relish that is made up of either vegetables or fruits that is preserved in brine or vinegar. Pickles are made my immersing the fruits or vegetables in the brine or vinegar solution and stored for a period of time during which the ingredients go through the pickling process and acquire the desired taste. Pickles are usually sweet or sour in taste and are often spicy. They acquire the taste of the key ingredient which is the vegetable or fruit of which the pickle is made. Pickles are consumed both as savory items as well as accompaniments with main courses especially in the Indian cuisine. The global pickle market is segregated on the basis of type, distribution channel and region. Based on type, the global market for pickles is segmented into fruit and vegetables. Fruit pickles are further sub-divided into mango, cucumber, orange and others. Vegetable pickles are further sub-divided into chili, cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and others. Fruit pickles held majority market share in 2016 and is anticipated to hold its dominant market share throughout the following years. Vegetable pickles are anticipated to witness the fastest growth rate during the period of 2017-2025. This is attributed to increased demand for these types of pickles in the Asia Pacific region as an accompaniment with food during meals. Based on distribution channel the global pickle market is segregated into supermarkets/hypermarkets, departmental stores and convenience stores. Supermarkets/hypermarkets held majority market share in 2016 and is anticipated to hold its position throughout the forecast period. This is attributed to large scale business that they do which leads to bigger revenue generation. This segment is also anticipated to witness the fastest growth rate during the forecast period of 2017-2025 owing to repeat business that they do through customers.
THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
Making cucumber pickles can take up to 42 days depending on the manufacturer’s recipe. Production involves four primary steps including harvesting, preservation, pasteurization, and final processing. The process is highly automated once the cucumbers are delivered to the processing plant.
Once harvested by field workers, cucumbers are put in large bins and transported to a receiving station. If the cucumbers are transported a long distance, refrigerated trucks are used. This helps to maintain the fresh appearance and flavor of the vegetable. At the receiving station, the cucumbers are poured out onto a conveyor where they are subjected to a cleaning process that removes the excess stems, blossoms, dirt, and other foreign matter. This step is important because trace amounts of bacteria on unwashed cucumbers can ruin the final pickle product. They are then moved to an inspection station where rotten vegetables are removed and the rest is separated by size. From here they are moved to a chiller and stored until they are ready to be used.
Depending on the manufacturer, conversion of the cucumber into a pickle can be done in one of three ways including fermentation, pasteurization, and refrigeration. The first and oldest method is a process known as fermentation. In this method, the cucumbers are transferred to large, air tight, fiber-glass or stainless-steel tanks. Some of these containers can hold over 40,000 lb (18,160 kg) of cucumbers. The tanks are filled with a brine solution, which is made up of water and 10% salt. The manufacturer can take advantage of a naturally-occurring bacteria that is present on the cucumbers or innoculate with a specifically desired bacteria. In either case, the bacteria are halophyllic, or salt tolerant. During the storage period of about five weeks, these bacteria breakdown the sugars present in the vegetable and produce carbon dioxide. To prevent adverse effects from the carbon dioxide, the tanks are periodically degassed. Pickles made in this way have a shelf life of many months.
The other two methods of preservation do not require a fermentation step. One method is by direct pasteurization. In this method, the cucumbers are bottled and then exposed to very high temperatures for a set amount of time. This has the effect of killing all of the natural bacteria that may is present. These sterilized cucumbers can then be further processed into pickles. This method of production results in pickles that have a shelf life of only a few months. The third method is by refrigeration and acidification. These pickles depend on the cold temperature and vinegar solution to prevent spoilage. While they are much faster to manufacture, they have a much shorter shelf life.
Processing and packaging
After the pickles have adequately fermented, the salt solution is drained. The pickles are then immersed in water to remove all of the salt they may have acquired during the cure. From this point, the pickles are moved along a conveyor to a slicing machine which cuts the pickles to the correct size depending on the type of product desired. They can be cut into slices, chips, or can even be diced. Attempts are made to maintain as clean an environment as possible for the pickles as contamination by microbes could result in an undesirable product.
After being cut, the pickles are typically placed in glass jars although cans, plastic bottles, and pouches have also been used. The packing machines are designed to deliver the correct amount of vegetable to each jar. The jars are moved along to a liquid filling machine, which fills them with the liquor. The pickle liquor consists of vinegar, salt, and other materials mentioned previously. This liquor is premixed in a large container prior to filling. To ensure an adequate distribution of spices, these are some-times filled into the jars before the liquor. From the filling machine, the jars are capped and moved along for pasteurization.
Pasteurization and sealing
The problem of spoilage is evident throughout the pickle making process. Cucumbers can spoil during the brining process and even during packing if they are exposed to air for too long. For this reason, the pickles are pasteurized. In order to pasteurize the pickles, they are typically exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time. Depending on how long the pickles are heated, pasteurization can either kill off all of the acetic acid-tolerant organisms or inactivate all of the enzymes in the vegetable. In both cases, pasteurization increases the shelf life of the pickles.
Most pickles are vacuum packed which means the air is removed from the jar before it is sealed. This helps maintain the pickle taste and prevents contamination by microorganisms. In order to vacuum pack the pickles, air in the jar is replaced with steam just before the cap is sealed. When the steam cools and condenses, it creates a vacuum, reducing the amount of free oxygen present in the jar. The vacuum seal is responsible for the familiar pop that is heard when a jar of pickles is opened.
The jars are next moved along a convey-or to a labeling machine. Labels are automatically affixed and a freshness date is stamped on the jar. From here the jars are moved to automatic packing machines which put them in cardboard boxes. They are transferred to pallets and shipped out to the local retailers.
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