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With focus on value added product lines, Choice chooses high-tech shrimp processing.

With Focus on Value Added Product Lines, Choice Chooses High-Tech Shrimp Processing

While India has traditionally been a major producer of block frozen shrimp, the future clearly lies in supplying value added products. That is why Choice Canning Co. has invested over US $3 million to outfit its Cochin processing plant with state-of-the-art machinery customized to cook, freeze and pack shrimp for discerning global buyers.

Jose Thomas, who heads up the company that was started by his father in 1958, decided last March to modernize the plant for IQF production. In less than four months he assembled a system capable of turning out 15,000 lbs. of finished product per day. The cooking equipment, which was manufactured domestically, is complemented with IQF and spiral freezers from Sweden's Frigoscandia and a computer-controlled packaging line from Denmark's Enkotec.

"We're working at full capacity now, supplying our industrial accounts and packing directly for the retail market," Thomas told Quick Frozen Foods International during an interview at Choice's New York office, from where the North American market is looked after. Arista Industries of Darien, Conn., distributes the company's line exclusively in the USA, while an office in London caters to European customers.

The product range includes cooked and raw tiger, brown and flower shrimp, karikadi, poovalan, cuttlefish and squid. The shrimp are available head-on (10/20-60/80 sizes), headless (16/20-71/90), or P&D (71/90-300/600).

Registering record export sales of over $1 million during March, Choice expects to do some $25 million worth of business in the USA alone during 1991. That market represents about 80% of all volume, with Europe, Japan and Australia accounting for the remainder.

Thomas calls his operation the first fully automated, integrated setup of its kind in India. "Our raw materials are untouched by hand from the time they are fed into the line," he explained. "As soon as the shrimp are graded and prepared they are packed in ice and transferred by insulated trucks directly to the main factory for processing, cooking and packing."

Choice has adopted a "reverse integration" system in which some 400 acres of backwater farms have been leased to breed large quantities of white and tiger shrimp during the November to May growing system.

Thomas is optimistic about turning his company into a big packer of private label products for retail chains. "India has always had high quality raw materials and competitive labor rates," he commented. "Now there is an FDA-approved producer on the scene that has placed the highest emphasis on hygiene and quality control. We expect that buyers will increasingly look to sources such as us for their value added requirements."
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Title Annotation:Choice Canning Co.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:442
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