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Research and Development

From idea to fruition

May 1, 2018 | 2 min read

Inspiration can come in many ways – for me it seems that spontaneity always works best. In the R&D lab, one of our responsibilities is coming up with innovative concepts using our many forms of fruits. When tasked with coming up with new healthy snack ideas it’s easy to start grabbing at straws, or attempting to reinvent the wheel. Although seldom our ideas are truly original, instead they are just built off our predecessors’ great concepts and then taken to the next level.

When approaching healthy snack development, I keep three things in mind: flavor, nutrition, and originality. Without all three of these the chance of getting a project out of the prototype stage is slim. For this concept, we wanted to encourage kids to eat a healthy snack using a fun and innovative delivery system. 

When formulating for what would later become “the apple gecko”, I also wanted to maximize fruit – since we are a fruit company, making a sample with more than 50% fruit is important. When adding fruit to a baking application, flake powder is a great option because it offers real fruit inclusion with full fruit flavor and is an excellent fat replacer and moisture extender. I chose to use 20 mesh natural flake powder, but many would be suitable for the application.

Drum-dried fruit powders can range from 35-mesh to as large as 4-mesh and include varieties such as apples, pears, mangos and berries, although the company can supply any fruit in a drum-dried form with mesh size according to customer specifications. Smaller mesh sizes suit applications that don’t desire piece identity, while large sizes work well in an application that benefits from piece identity such as cereal with a fruit flake. Each offers functional benefits and of course nutritional components. The finer the drum-dried fruit powder the more quickly it rehydrates.

After deciding what to make and how I was going to make it, I started the tried and true method of trial and error. After many trial and error sessions the final product began to take shape, a wafer made on a $19.99 waffle cone iron that contained more than 50% fruit. Making a very long story short we were told if there was any chance of mass producing the wafer we had to be able to do it on a “Gecko Plate”, so that is how we ended up with the infamous apple gecko.  The apple gecko prototype has been used in many delivery systems, from ice cream cones, edible spoons, children’s on-the-go snacks, and part cookies looking for some crunch.

The apple gecko is just one example of hundreds of innovative applications the Tree Top R&D team develops.  We work on custom and proprietary applications as well. Our research and development department is ready to help find the right inclusion or natural fruit preservative for your application.
Contact our fruit ingredient experts at (800) 367-6571 ext. 1435.

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