The wide availability of fresh fruit in tropical Africa and the simplicity of producing and selling simple fruit juices creates real opportunities for micro-businesses.
/~The street vendor of juice extracts juice from fresh fruit, possibly bought at a nearby market, and sells it to passing pedestrians, particularly those buying street foods. The juice is pressed to order so there are no preservation and packaging issues other than ensuring that the fruit used is fresh.
To create a new image within this sector, there appears to be an opportunity for a franchise business system that would support street vendors in supplying somewhat upgraded and standardised products.
Vendors could be provided with simple insulated trollies, uniforms, disposable cups with lids, and a range of associated products such as indigenous drinks and snacks.
Once equipment, processes and hygiene systems are in place, there is the further opportunity of supplying bulk quantities of fresh juice to food service businesses such as hotels, restaurants and company dining.
Orange juice is by far the most-consumed juice in the First World. Tastes in Africa are more focused on tropical fruits.
A vendor could, however, not depend on selling a single juice. The vendor would really need to understand the tastes of the people in the area where he/she works and be able to sell juice all year round – by being able to process whatever fruit is available and affordable.
Mixing of juices of different fruits and adding water or even soda water to produce lighter and cheaper drinks is seldom done in African countries, but could also be an opportunity. There is also the possibility of adding other ingredients such as sugar, mint or hibiscus to produce different tastes and appearances.
Citrus is processed using small-scale equipment including manual and electric reamers and simple half-fruit presses. These produce juices that have no pips or skin and little flesh. This specialised equipment – which is not useful for other fruits – is obtainable through supermarkets, appliance wholesalers and on-line at health sites. Manual presses cost around $50-$150 in South Africa; reamers range from simple glassware, costing around $10, to electric household versions, costing $75.
Citrus can also be processed in the machines described below, but if it is, it must be well peeled and de-pipped before juicing.
- The conical screen juice press is more versatile – it can process any fruit. Fruit is peeled, de-pipped if necessary, and cut into chunks which are fed into a rotating screw which presses the fruit up against a conical screen. The juice and some flesh passes through the screen while the reasonably dry solids exit at the end of the screen. These machines are not readily available in Africa. They cost around $200 to $350 for the electric version and $50 for the manual models in the US.
- Another type of equipment suitable for small-scale processing is the electric grinding/centrifuging type of household juicing machine. The fruit is very finely ground and needs to be peeled and de-pipped (if grinding these would give unacceptable taste or appearance). Household units cost $50 to $150 in South Africa while larger more robust units are available from $500 to $1,000.
- The final type of small-scale equipment is the fruit press where chopped fruit mechanically pressed in either a cage or filter cloth, squeezing a reasonable clear juice out of the fruit. Wine and cider presses are typical of this kind of equipment, but it is not used often for producing small quantities.
All of these technologies would allow the processor to produce and sell up to hundreds of litres a day.
The citrus and conical screen machines can be hand-operated, but the household juicer requires electricity because the separation is centrifugal.
There is no doubt that chilled juice is much easier to sell than ambient juice on a hot street. Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a street vendor with cost-effective access to a standard fridge. But alternate solutions could be considered, such as an evaporative-cooled fruit box or an insulated cooler box with a water compartment which could be frozen overnight. Dry ice is becoming increasingly expensive; eutectic plates (similar to camping freeze-blocks, but designed for commercial use) are an alternative which is cheaper in the long run.
The fact that juice is served and consumed immediately after pressing means that fermentation and food poisoning from bacterial growth are not possible. It is, however, critical to maintain clean conditions to avoid the spread of pathogenic organisms. The basis of producing a safe and quality juice is the maintenance of clean equipment (including hands) and the selection of quality fruit.
It is also necessary to ensure that there is no contamination of either fruit or juice from the environment, the water used for washing, or from containers. In particular, used agricultural chemical containers should not be used to transport water or juice.
Water and waste
It is very important that the hawkers are able to source the water they need for cleaning and that they remove all waste immediately and continuously – possibly using a sealed plastic bucket/s which could be discarded in official waste areas at the end of the day.
- In our next edition, we will feature medium-scale juicing technology.
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