Production of under-utilized fruit RTS (Ready to Serve Drink) and commercialization

Sri Lanka has a high potential for cultivating fruit-crops for domestic as well as export markets; however, Sri Lanka's per capita consumption of fruits remain far below the required average daily intake of 40g of edible portion for a balanced diet (Medical Research Institute), despite owning over 60 varieties under- utilized fruit crops. Most of fruits in Sri Lanka are still underutilized, grown in forests and rural areas lacking proper marketing strategies. Underutilized plant species have local and regional importance, but generally lack national recognition and appreciation; but were traditionally used for its promising characters such as food, fiber, fodder, oil or medicinal properties. With proper mainstreaming these species have the potential to ensure food security, nutrition, health, income generation and environmental services.

Underutilized fruits can be utilized for preparation of various value added products including Ready to Serve (RTS) drinks. Under-utilized fruit species are rich in various nutritious and bioactive components; high fiber content antioxidant properties and other pharmaceutical & nutraceutical properties which could be utilized to minimize the health risk of the people. However,
there are limitations in exploitation of fruits because of scarcity and seasonal availability; difficulties in harvesting/collection, high price as well availability of less facilities for long term storage without causing alternations to their sensory qualities. Though several productive research have been done based on underutilized fruit production and value-addition, most of the novel products are not yet commercially available due to prevailing bottle necks in the process from production to marketing. To overcome these bottlenecks the National Food Promotion Board of the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with Biodiversity for Food & Nutrition Project has undertaken the project on; Production of under-utilized fruit RTS (Ready to Serve Drink) and commercialization of its products through existing marketing outlets subsequently disseminating the production guidelines to entrepreneurs including small-hold entrepreneurs to maintain sustainability of the market chain. Thereby, promoting effective utilization of underutilized fruits island wide and promoting production of value-added products (RTS) for commercial purposes; simultaneously creating new livelihood strategies for well-being of both farmer community and manufacturers.

Three underutilized fruit varieties including Ceylon olive Elocarpus serratus (Veralu), Mango Mangifera indica L. (Amba), Sour Soup Anona Muricata (Katuannoda) were selected for production of RTS. The production methodologies were optimized and pilot scale manufacturing was carried out at the factory in Gannoruwa at the Food Research Unit, Department of Agriulture. The underutilized fruit RTS are marketed under the brand name "Sun Mack" through 14 “Healthy Food” outlets of the national Food Promotion Board, mainly targeting the urban areas in the Western Province.

Branding and Marketing

Several marketing strategies including promotional media popularizing the brand has been implemented. At present RTS is marketed under the brand "Sun Mack" through 14 “Healthy Food” outlets of the national Food Promotion Board at a price of 80 Rupees.

For the benefit of more customers; expansion of the marketing chain island wide is underway targeting existing marketing outlets. Steps have been taken to disseminate the product with assistance of other ministries and institutions including private sectors.