Specialising in the packaging and distribution of fruit and vegetables, Provence-based Lou Roucas, via its subsidiary Provence Ventoux, has patented a microwave oven cooking technique for fresh vegetables.

The vegetables are offered fresh, cut, peeled or not, in packets of 200 to 500 grams in which there is a water-producing capsule. No additives or conservation substances are used.

The capsule is a small perforated polypropylene sachet, suitable for contact with food. When in a microwave oven, the sachet produces the steam necessary for easy and rapid cooking (three to seven minutes) with the all the flavour of a traditionally cooked product and its organoleptic qualities conserved, the company claims.

Developed in collaboration with Avignon-based laboratory CNC, the technique has been feasibility-tested by France’s fruit and vegetables industry’s technical centre, CTIFL.

Provence Ventoux has just begun producing 2,000 sachets a day for supermarket and hypermarket retailers. Given the encouraging reception of its products under the “Les Express du Potager” brand, the company has extended the initial range of six vegetables to 11.

It is eyeing an initial turnover of €600,000 (US$634,000) from the brand in 2003 and is also said to be looking for a financial partner to back the construction of a new plant.

Lou Roucas posted a 2002 turnover of €9m.