Biotta Pomegranate – From tree to bottle

Where are the organic pomegranates in Biotta pomegranate juice grown? How are they processed and what happens before the juice arrives in Tägerwilen? Clemens Rüttimann, Managing Director of Biotta, travelled to Turkey to find out.

Turkey is a huge coun­try. This be­comes abun­dantly clear when, from Is­tan­bul, there's still an­other two hours’ fly­ing to reach the south east of the coun­try. A mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture has sprung up in re­cent years. Cities such as Adiya­man or Erz­in­can now have mod­ern air­ports. From Adiya­man, the jour­ney con­tin­ues for a fur­ther two to three hours by car on well-main­tained roads, to the far south east of the coun­try close to the Syr­ian bor­der. For cli­mate rea­sons, pome­gran­ates are pri­mar­ily grown around the Mediter­ranean. Turkey is one of the biggest pro­duc­ers. To­day, most or­ganic pome­gran­ates orig­i­nate from the area around Kozan (Adana province) or fur­ther north in the re­gion of Erz­in­can. It was here where a num­ber of in­no­v­a­tive com­pa­nies com­menced cul­ti­va­tion some 20 years ago. Tar­geted re­for­esta­tion has re­sulted in the cre­ation of pome­gran­ate or­chards of around 50 hectares in size, each man­aged by one farmer. Cul­ti­va­tion is strictly reg­u­lated, and is closely mon­i­tored and doc­u­mented by the state agri­cul­tural au­thor­ity. Each field is sur­veyed pre­cisely and reg­is­tered with the Re­gional De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, and has fer­til­i­sa­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion plans. In ad­di­tion, the fields are sub­jected to an an­nual qual­ity con­trol and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of pro­cess­ing by Bio-Su­isse.

Pomegranates do not all grow at the same rate, so a trained eye is needed when harvesting.

Man­ual labour and a trained eye

The pome­gran­ate trees are pruned from Jan­u­ary to Feb­ru­ary. Flow­er­ing be­gins shortly af­ter­wards, dur­ing which the trees are a blaze of mag­nif­i­cent crim­son. Dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, which lasts un­til the end of Au­gust, there is im­por­tant work to be done in the fields: Pest con­trol, for ex­am­ple, in­volves plac­ing traps as no pes­ti­cides are used in the cul­ti­va­tion of or­ganic pome­gran­ates, and re­peat­edly free­ing the soil from grass and weeds to ward off soil-borne pests. Af­ter pol­li­na­tion, around 50 – 100 kg of fruit grow on each tree de­pend­ing on the level of prun­ing, with the heav­i­est fruit weigh­ing up to 700 g. Pome­gran­ates grow at dif­fer­ent rates, which is why not all are har­vested at the same time. The farm­ers can tell sim­ply by look­ing at the fruit's ca­lyx whether the pome­gran­ate is ripe or needs more time. This re­quires a trained eye.

All parts of the plant are used

The pome­gran­ates are har­vested be­tween the end of Sep­tem­ber and mid-No­vem­ber. Juic­ing al­ways fol­lows within 48 hours of har­vest­ing – de­spite the enor­mous trans­port dis­tances that can be in­volved. Af­ter wash­ing, the pome­gran­ates are cracked open and pit­ted. The red seeds go into the juicer and are gen­tly pressed. The pome­gran­ate juice for Biotta is pas­teurised, packed in 200-kg con­tain­ers and placed in cold stor­age im­me­di­ately. With cheaper juices, stor­age costs are lower as the juice is con­cen­trated down to an eighth of its vol­ume af­ter juic­ing by evap­o­rat­ing out all the wa­ter. Dur­ing this process, how­ever, im­por­tant sec­ondary plant com­pounds are lost. This is why Biotta juices are all “not from con­cen­trate”. Af­ter cold stor­age, the bar­rels are shipped to Biotta by sea and rail via Rot­ter­dam. The pome­gran­ate seeds that not used for the juice are dried in pro­duc­tion af­ter press­ing. The seeds can be fur­ther processed as raw ma­te­r­ial for the cos­met­ics in­dus­try. For this process, the oil is pressed out of the pips. The re­main­ing mat­ter and the pome­gran­ate peel are used for an­i­mal feed and fer­tiliser for or­ganic fields.

Biotta val­ues long-term re­la­tion­ships through­out the en­tire value chain. This al­lows the farm­ers to plan bet­ter over the long term and guar­an­tees ac­cep­tance at fair con­di­tions. Per­sonal con­tact is there­fore cru­cial. The or­chards and pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties are known to us and are reg­u­larly vis­ited by the man­age­ment and/​or pur­chas­ing man­agers. We main­tain close con­tact with the grow­ers to al­low us to dis­cuss sea­sonal fluc­tu­a­tions and other chal­lenges.