Phil Acock in the Fourayes Fruit Processing plant

Fruit industry comment and insights from Phil Acock

Oct 4, 2017

Big is Beautiful. Sometimes.

This month’s blog presents me with something of a dilemma...

On the one hand I wanted to take the theme of ‘big is beautiful’ but on the other, the harvest has delivered a timely reminder that, as Ross Perot (billionaire US business magnate and former politician) once said: ‘Big is not beautiful. Big is inefficient.’

Never one to shirk a challenge, I’ve decided to tackle both.

When it comes to our new DCA (Dynamically Controlled Atmosphere) stores, big really is rather beautiful. The stores are enormous: 36.2m long by 25.7m wide by 10.2m high. To put that into context, if we had a mind to do so we could stack almost 56 double-decker buses in the space! But that’s not our aim. The new DCA stores comprise five controlled atmosphere units taking almost 3,000 bins of English Bramley apples weighing around 1,000 tonnes in total. Computers constantly make minute changes to the oxygen levels in the units in order to keep our English Bramley apples in the most amazing condition for up to a year – reducing the need for chemicals and ensuring that our Bramley apple fillings and cuts are as good at the end of the season as they are at the start.

As Fruiticians – ‘passionate about doing beautiful things with fruit’ – our DCA stores are a perfect example of where big really is beautiful and efficient.

But big isn’t always beautiful and efficient. Take this year’s Bramley apple harvest for example. Peculiar weather conditions, a blend of late cold snaps, high rain levels and extended periods of sunshine, not always in the expected order, have conspired to produce an apple crop that’s down Europe-wide and, in the case of the Bramley apple, has produced some incredibly large apples; quite a few of them in fact. The apple on the desk in front of me, taken from this year’s crop and pictured below, has a girth of 14 centimetres; and that’s not unusual.

‘Brilliant’ you might say, the bigger the better; and I won’t deny that the Bramley apples this harvest do look rather fetching. However, beauty isn’t everything.

Our world-class Atlas peeling and coring machines are calibrated to accept a wide range of fruit sizes but overly large apples don’t always orientate themselves as well as smaller fruit. They can also block the flumes that transport the apples, bruise-free, for peeling and can present an almighty challenge to our dicers.

Thanks to a constant-monitoring-and-maintenance strategy our productivity this season is excellent, despite the testing Bramley apple sizes. But that’s the point – it does challenge the efficiency of the process, requiring a much higher number of inputs and interventions in order to keep the levels high.

So, whilst big certainly can be beautiful, and our new DCA stores are testament to that, when it comes to Bramley apples I guess you’d say that we prefer ‘small and perfectly formed’!


Phil Acock. Managing Director and Mad Scientist at Fourayes; the UK’s number one grower and processor of English Bramley apples and processor of fruits from the UK and across the globe.

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