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Historical document

Study tour to Europe to investigate new chestnut processing technologies and value-added products, 2008 (CH08000)

Key research provider: Australian Chestnut Company
Publication date: October, 2008

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

In 1996 Frank Smalls were commissioned by the chestnut industry to study
“Increasing chestnut penetration and usage frequency”. They determined that the single most important factor inhibiting the uptake of chestnuts as part of a normal diet was that they were time-consuming to peel. Since then, a number of individuals within the chestnut industry have investigated the feasibility of processing chestnuts.

There were three chestnut processors in Australia at the time, one based on chestnut flour, the second on frozen chestnut meal and the third on frozen peeled whole chestnuts that were processed off shore in China. All were relatively small producers and whilst there was a clear need for a value added chestnut products there were two issues which needed to be addressed before processing in Australia could become a reality. Firstly, and most importantly, there needed to be an established demand for processed chestnut products and secondly the cost of production in Australia needed to be accurately determined and considered to be economically feasible. Without a known demand at the price level determined by the cost of production, it was impossible to make large capital investment decisions regarding Australian based production of frozen peeled chestnuts.

The study involved investigating European chestnut peeling technologies and assessing their potential for the Australian industry. In addition, many value-added products were tested for their possible introduction to the Australian market. European culture embraced the chestnut and they were part of the normal day to day eating habits of many French and Italians. The per capita consumption of chestnuts in Europe was estimated to be 500g per year, compared to Australia which was estimated to be 1 NUT per year. The nuts were not only eaten as hot roasted chestnuts but there were a variety of purees, cakes, biscuits and confectionary made using chestnuts. Every patisserie had a chestnut cake of some kind and the expensive marrons glaces were a common Christmas gift.

Desk top research into processing machinery from 1996 was used as a base and since then a number of improvements have developed in machinery design. The Boema Company in North West Italy were now clear market leaders in chestnut processing equipment and their machinery was very high quality. The costs of machinery were very high and in addition to the base components additional funding would be required for freight, installation and the establishment of a complete food grade processing facility

There was a catch twenty two situation in the Australian chestnut industry. With a relatively unknown and untested market for processed chestnut products it was unlikely that an investment of the size required could be made at the time. If the market for processed chestnuts could be developed and expanded using the Australian processors available at the time then in the future, once the market had reached a critical point, a substantial investment into processing equipment would be justified.


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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of Australian Chestnut Company.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2009. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).