Fourth Range Products - history, production, trade
Fourth range fruit and vegetable products are all those varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables ready for consumption.
Forth range fruit and vegetable products are all those varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables, alone or mixed, coming from organic cultivations or integrated cultivations, which during post-harvesting processing are subject to certain procedures (also called processing stages of the fourth range products, that is selection, sorting, husking, cutting and washing) and are then packaged in envelopes or sealed food trays, through the cold chain to be finally sold on the fruit and vegetable market ready for raw consumption or ready to be consumed after cooking.
In supermarkets the space assigned to fourth range products has greatly increased in recent years: the fourth range fruit and vegetable products in fact meet new consumption styles through a preparation and a presentation that are functional both to the consumer and to modern distribution.
The current pace of life pushes to a large use of products that bring more services: they are offered in portions and can be consumed fast and easily, without hindering the quality and the sensorial aspect of fresh fruit and vegetable.
Fourth range fruit and vegetable products, that is fourth range fruit and fourth range vegetables, are also considered “barely treated” food products, as fruits and vegetable, if necessary, are subject to a moderate preservation treatment, which leaves intact and unchanged the organoleptic and sensorial characteristics typical of the fresh product.
This procedure is mainly based on the cold chain: low temperature, in fact, must be a constant during all the stages through which goes the fruit and vegetable product, from post-harvesting to consumption. It is also important not to forget the modified atmosphere in the package.
Fourth range products combine convenience of consumption with the unquestionable naturalness of fresh vegetables. Among the advantages of the purchase of fourth range products, time saving is one of the fundamental aspects, however important aspects are also their low content in calories, the fact that they are rich in fibres and mineral salts, their antioxidants properties, their convenience and volume.
In a more and more rushing and chaotic life, fourth range fruit and vegetable products are recommended as a constant part of meals and are particularly advisable for those people who follow an inactive lifestyle: the consumption of fresh vegetables, in fact, helps in hindering the tendency to overeating, therefore diminishing risks, such as overweight and obesity.
Among disadvantages of the purchase of fourth range fruit and vegetable products, there is of course, the higher price compared with the price of fresh fruit or vegetables: fourth range products 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.
The cost of products “ready in bags” or fourth range products is higher compared to that of traditional vegetable for many reasons, among which of course there is technology and the controls that characterize the production chain; however, the starting product, before being subject to processing, must have specific quality characteristic, so that a high quality final product can be obtained, as requested by an increasing number of consumers.
The average shelf life of fourth range products is of about 3-4 days up to maximum 10 days, as for fresh products (fresh fruit and vegetables).
As said before, apart from the delicate processing steps through which go fourth range fruit and vegetable products, the main tie for the preservation of fourth range products is the cold chain.