Fourth range Peppers
All those varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables ready for consumption are called fourth range fruit and vegetable products.
They are fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, already washed, dried, cut, packaged in trays or in plastic bags and therefore ready for consumption or to be put on the table. Among the fourth range products we consider the fresh fruit and vegetable products single or mixed with others, that during the post-harvesting processing are subject to selection, sorting, trimming, cutting, washing and packaging in bags or sealed containers and that, through the cold chain, are traded on the fruit and vegetable market ready for immediate consumption or after cooking.
The fourth range fruit and vegetable products, like fourth range peppers meet new consumption styles through a preparation and a presentation that are functional both to the consumer and to modern distribution.
In supermarkets the space assigned to fourth range products, included peppers, has greatly increased in recent years: while shopping, in fact, bags of fresh fruits and vegetables ready to be dressed and fried are definitely more appealing. Among the advantages of the purchase of fourth range peppers, time saving is one of the aspects to be highlighted.
Among disadvantages of the purchase of fourth range fruit and vegetable products, included fourth range peppers, there is, of course, the higher price compared with the price of fresh vegetables. Fourth range vegetables are certainly more expensive of their unprocessed equivalent (usually cost 5-6 times more), but in addition to the service offered to consumers, it is above all the process of production, from cultivation to cooled distribution, that has a high cost.
Peppers assigned to fourth range are specifically cultivated for this type of production, using controlled and specific seeds and techniques.
In fact, it is crucial for the final quality of the fourth range vegetable to minimize the elapsing time between harvesting and processing: seeding is, therefore, programmed to get stocks to the establishments, in a continuous but staggered way. Upon arrival, vegetables are cooled and then are processed.
The first stage of processing of the fourth range vegetable is a careful hand sorting to remove the altered or unsuitable parts for the processing.
Then they are cut, washed a second time for sanitation with cold bacteria free water, then the fresh vegetables are dried in a spinner or, if they are more delicate products, such as salads, they are dried in tunnels with cold air.
The final step is the packaging of the fruit and vegetable products involved: fourth range peppers are usually packaged with other vegetables in mixed salads, however for this kind of packaging it is not possible to use a simple plastic bag. The material used has been studied for each type of product, as the film must have a specific permeability to gases, in order to let the vegetables "breathe" after the harvesting, producing water and carbon dioxide and consuming oxygen. If the film was impermeable, condensation would form inside the bag and Co2 would accumulate, creating an ideal condition for anaerobic bacteria; on the other hand, if it was too permeable, the product would dehydrate and there would be too much oxygen.
It is fundamental to control the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen and to keep the right moisture level inside the package for an excellent storage, and it is duty of the producers of fresh 4th range vegetables to control these aspects.
Furthermore, as fourth range vegetables are more perishable than the fruit and vegetable products traded without any processing, they need a constant keeping of the cold chain, a fundamental tool for their storage.
Also for fourth range peppers there are no preservatives, which are forbidden by law for this kind of food.
Department stores have prevailed over the other distribution channels as to the sale of processed vegetables. On average, supermarkets and superstores control the 81% in volume and the 85% in value of the 4th range fruit and vegetable market, to which should be added discount supermarkets: the entire amount of the great distribution is of 95% in volume and in value.
Regulations governing labeling of the 4th range products are a form of guarantee and protection of the consumer: for this reason, consumers should be able to properly read information on labels of every product, in this way they would be able to take conscious decisions when purchasing these products. In fact, the key objective of the regulation is to provide, through a punctual and rigorous labeling, an accurate description of the product, of its components, ingredients, nutritional values and of the functions that they can play.
Italy is, after the UK, the second largest European market in the consumption of the so-called fourth range products ready for consumption.
Fourth range fruit and vegetable products are more and more demanded: created in the beginning in the wake of changes of the lifestyles, for the necessity to save time, for their functionality and for the fact that they guarantee hygiene, the 4th range products are nowadays preferred by almost an Italian out of two, despite the fact that the price is on average five/six times higher compared to the unpacked product.