Blog: Katy AskewIntrexon targets fresh-prepared potential with Okanagan buy

Katy Askew | 2 March 2015

Synthetic biology group Intrexon Corp. hopes its acquisition of Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) will help it tap into growing demand for fresh prepared fruits. 

According to the company's website, OSF commercialises new tree fruit cultivars to which unique qualities have been added through advancements in molecular biology, genomics, genetics and breeding. 

“We are committed to bringing better versions of consumers' favourite fruits to their grocery stores and kitchens, while addressing additional novel traits in tree fruits that reduce waste and address supply chain challenges,” founder Neal Carter explained. 

For instance, the company has developed what it claims is the “world's first” non-browning apple, the Arctic apple. 

Through this advancement in particular, Intrexon hops to capitalise on what it describes as one of the “fastest-growing” categories of the industry: the fresh-cut segment. “Arctic apple provides consumers with an answer to a pesky but common food issue without any flavour-altering, anti-browning additives. It is an alternative to current approaches to browning control, which are more costly and require the application of chemical solutions or antioxidants,” Intrexon said. 

As the company points out, the fresh-cut segment has been boosted by growing health and wellness concerns in North America and the ongoing need for convenience. Significantly, concerns over food additives and chemicals has also been driving the free-from and natural segments apace. 

However, consumer concern over additives reflects a general mistrust of the role science has to play in food production. 

Food additives approved for use across North America are safe. But consumers still worry. They also worry about genetic engineering in the food sector and GM-free has become as much of a watchword as additive-free. 

Will apples developed by a company that lists genomics and genetics as its specialities become a hit in the era of the “clean label”? Time will tell. In the long term, with growing demand from an expanding worldwide population expected to outpace supply in the not-too-distant future, it seems that science – be it agricultural techniques that rely on the Internet of Things or more productive crop varieties developed through genetic engineering – will have an increasingly important role to play in food production. 

Sectors: Fresh produce

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