Fourth range Salad
4th range fruit and vegetable products are all the varieties of fresh vegetable, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables reasy for consumption.
Tey are fresh fruits and vegetables , already washed, dried, cut, packaged in trays or in plastic bags and therefore ready to be put on the table. Among the fourth range products we consider the fresh fruit and vegetable productssingle 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, though 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, and in particular fourth range salad, meet new consumption styles through a preparation and a presentation that are functional both to the consumer and to modern distribution. The Italian market prefers, with these kind of packages, leafy vegetables such as lettuce, rocket, endive and valerian, that nowadays represent more than 60% of fourth range products sold.
Ready-to-use salads are joining the traditional leaf salads, that in the basket of expenditure represent a kind of irreplaceable product, with a level of consumption penetration around 90% in Europe. In supermakets, infact, space assigned to ready salads and vegetables has greatly increased in recent years: while shopping, in fact, bags of fresh fruits and vegetables ready to be dresses are definitely more appealing. The supply of fourth range fruit and vegetable products is very wide, ranging from mono-packages of salad (lettuce, head lettuce, rocket, corn salad and so on) to mixtures of al types, suitable for differend uses. Most recently, also packaging of fourth range salad containing lso the dressing have spread: you just need to push the container, shake and the 4th range salad is ready for consumption.
Among the advantages of the purchase of fourth range salads, (4 range salad, IV range salad), time saving is one of the first aspects to be highlighted, followed by the fact that there are not scraps of fresh fruits and vegetables and that furthermore they have healthy "plus", like the fact that with fourth range salads it is simpler to mix different varieties, allowing to our bodies the assumption a wider range of antioxidant compounds, increasing the total antioxidant capacity of our body.
Fourth range salads can also be easily transported and consumed also in places other than home, in offices, for picnic, as a snack after the gym, increasing in this way opportunities to eat vegetables, for the benefit of global health.
Among disadvantages of the purchase of fourth range fruit and vegetable products and fourth range salad, there is, of course, the higher price compared with the price of the fresh saladdisplayed in heads: 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.
Fresh vegetables assigned to fourth range production and fourth range salad are , in fact, grown ad-hoc for this type of production, using controlled and specific seeds and techniques.
In fact, it is crucial for fourth range salad quality, to minimize the elapsing time between harvesting processing: seeding is, therefore, programmed to get stocks to the establishments, in a continuos but staggered way. Upon arrival, vegetables are cooled and then are processed.
The first stage of processing of the fourth range salad is a careful hand sorting to remove the altered or unsuitable parts for the processing ( such as yellowed or darkened leaves). Follows husking, which includes removing of unusable parts form salad, such as external leaves of bracts; then follows the first wash in water sanitized with chlorine, to remove earth residual, foreign bodies, waste products or unwanted pesticides.
Then there is the cutting, made only for adult salads, as leafy salads are already provided in leaves of small size and therefore do not require cutting in the establishments.
These fourth range salads are then washed a second time and for sanitation with cold bacteria free water, then the vegetables are dried in a spinner or, if they are delicate products, such as salads, they are driedn in tunnels with cold air.
The final step is the packaging of fruit and vegetable products involved: the packaging og vegetables and in general of the fourth range salad is not a simple plastic bag. The material used has been studied for each tpe 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 consume oxygen. If the film was impermeable, condensation would form insiede 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 tofor an excellent storage, and it is duty of the producers of fresh 4th range vegetables and 4th range salad to control these aspects. Furthermore, as 4th range salads and vegetables are more perishable of the fruit and vegetable products traded withouth any processing, they need a constant keeping og the cold chain, a fundamental tool for their storage.
It is important to remember that in 4th range products and salads there are no preservative, which are prohibited by law for this food category.
As to the shelf-life of the fourth range fruit and vegetable products, it is different according to the characteristics of the vegetables and of their production system: usually a fourth range saladshould not be stored for more than seven days. Moreover, it is good to remebere that this kind of production of fourth range products does not enhance second rate vegetable , because only the best vegetable, as to development, physiological condition, appearance and integrity, can resist to consumption caused by processing, in order to be still desirable at the end of the estimated shelf-life.
Department stores have preveiled over the other distribution channels as to the sale of processed vegetable. 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 is 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 the second largest European market in the consumption of the so-calledfourth range products ready for consumption, after the UK: with an annual consumption of over 42 thousand tons of fourth range salad produced and a turnover of 375 million euros (2004), in 2007 the 4th range fruit and vegetable sectorcame close to 700 million euros.
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 and Italian out of two, despite the fact that the price is on average five/six times higher compared to the unpacked product.
Fourth range salad is, in any case, one of the most dynamic and performing sector of the international fruit and vegetable market, representin, alone almost 8% (7.9% to be correct, data of 2010 for Europe) of the market value of fruit and vegetables purchased.
Among the variety of saladassigned to the 4th range production, the most widely used varieties in recent years are:
- Fourth range head lettuce (Ambiance, Imperial, Mantilia, Rosalba, Appia, Isolde, Massilia, Samurai, Clarion, Jessy, Mira, Tropica, Columbus, Jipsi, Musette, Tures, Delia, Jordan, Paradeez, Venere, Elsa, Jory, Plastina, Verpia, Frandria, Justine, Ravel, Vertico);
- Fourth range Roman lettuce (Colosseo, Inor, Melissa, Sumatra, Corsaro, Manital ez, Miranda, White Boston, Corsica, Melania, Odessa, Igea, Melina, Remus;
- Fourth range cutting lettuce (Salad bowl, Lattughino, green Lollo, red Lollo, Gentilina, Batavia).