It's almost silent in the room where fresh fruit is turned into dried fruit. Every now and then a loud crack is heard. The huge tunnels, in which the process happens, recall horizontal milk tanks in a dairy. The process of sublimation takes 10 to 14 hours, during which the ice in the frozen fruit is evaporated at minus 18 degrees in a vacuum. The result is freeze-dried fruit which last for two to three years and retain their full flavour.
Production manager Thomas Grothe strides across the tunnel-room. In the next hall, employees in padded jackets push carts full of trays of dried fruits. It smells of raspberries and blueberries. Fruits like apple or physalis are processed here, as well as strawberries or pineapples. 2,000 metric tonnes leave the factory every year; that is 14,000 metric tonnes worth of dehydrated fruits. But also fish, meat and herbs - anything you can freeze-dry. Several awards have already been received by Paradise Fruits, most recently the entrepreneurial prize of the East German Sparkasse Bank.
Paradise Fruits is having a growth spurt. For years, the production facilities at the plant in Salzwedel, in the north of Saxony-Anhalt have been fully utilised. The business is buzzing. "There are not many companies in this market," says Managing Director Bernd Wiesner. "You need capital and know-how". According to him, the process is technically sophisticated and can be compared to hanging up laundry in winter. Initially the clothes freeze stiff, but then they end up dry anyway.
The freeze-dried fruits from Saxony-Anhalt can be found in cereal mixtures or tea, as well as in chocolate. "Chocolate makers are no longer coming to us," says Wiesner. Products by all the large manufacturers contain pieces of fruit from Paradise Fruits.
Originally, Paradise Fruits was in the fruit concentrates business. According to Wiesner, this market is fiercely competitive. The Jahnckes family business in Lower Saxony sold their concentrate business in 2007 and continued on to freeze-drying. It was the right decision.
The company began with 24 employees, now there are 180. Originally, Paradise Fruits were aiming for one fifth of the current production, which is to be increased even more this year due to the great appetite of the customers.
More than half of all Paradise fruits are exported. "Into the whole wide world," says Wiesner. "To the US, to Australia, Asia, South Africa and all over Europe. We have offices in China, Kiev, Manchester, Boston, San Francisco and Moscow."