Sunsweet Growers Inc., was granted US patent 6183795 6 February for "Method for producing shattered preservative-free dried fruit or vegetable pieces."

The other current player in this technology/equipment is J. M. Smucker.

Abstract:

    A method of producing shattered, preservative-free dried fruit or vegetable pieces. Preferably, low moisture fruit is cryogenically frozen and the frozen fruit is then impacted (preferably using a roller mill or tumbler) to produce randomized, shattered fruit pieces (preferably having size primarily in the range from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch). The shattered fruit pieces are optionally dried (for example, while they are warmed in a warm air dryer) to reduce their moisture content to 22%-25% prior to packaging. In an optional, preliminary processing step, dried fruit is first rehydrated to a moisture content of 22%-30% (preferably 23%-25%) to produce low moisture fruit. The low moisture fruit is pitted and then frozen. The frozen, low moisture fruit is then shattered (and optionally then dried) in accordance with the invention. Other aspects of the invention are apparatus for producing shattered, preservative-free dried fruit or vegetable pieces, which include a dual pass roller mill or a tumbler for shattering the frozen plant material.

First of 44 Claims:

A process for producing shattered edible plant material comprising the steps of:

    a) freezing edible plant material having a moisture content of 22%-30% to form frozen plant material; and
    b) forming frozen pieces of edible plant material having a size not greater than 3/8 inch and not less than 1/4 inch by impacting the frozen plant material to break said frozen plant material into said frozen pieces of edible plant material.

By Navroz Havewala, just-food.com correspondent