Over the last few years, the frozen industry has come a long way in utilizing innovative techniques for preservation, which ensures that ready-to-eat food is tasty as well as healthy.
By Neeta Malik
Gone are the days when frozen or ready-to-eat foods were all about artificial preservatives and additives. Today, they are becoming one of the most preferred meal options in urban households, owing to their convenience and also because they now come packed with a lot of health benefits.
Specifically in India, the ready-to-eat food market stood at $261 million in 2017 and it is projected to accelerate to $647 million by 2023 at a CAGR of more than 16 per cent during the years 2018-2023. With the advent of technology and research in the nutrition and wellness sector, infinite techniques for healthy food preservation have emerged and are being implemented across the globe. Some of these key techniques include:
Blanching to Inactivate Enzymes: The foremost step towards preserving frozen food is blanching fruits and vegetables to inactivate enzymes and yeasts that can gradually cause food spoilage. This helps to avoid any vitamin or mineral loss in the frozen foods.
Making Use of the Retorting Technology: Retorting is a go-to technology these days in the food processing industry. It refers to the thermal processing of low acidic foods, which are prone to microbial spoilage in sealed containers. Retorting helps to extend the frozen food’s shelf life and obtain commercial sterilization by application of heat.
Storing Frozen Foods at the Most Optimum Temperature: In order to sustain the micronutrients of foods and avoid freezer burn, frozen foods are stored at zero Fahrenheit or lower temperatures. Research shows that if stored efficiently, frozen or ready-to-eat foods can preserve more nutrients than recently cooked food items.
Packaging Using Vacuum Sealers: Another game changer in the frozen food industry is vacuum packaging. Various vacuum packaging machines and vacuum sealers are now being used to remove air while storing the frozen foods. This helps to extend the storage time of refrigerated, frozen, and dried foods. In this oxygen-free environment, the spoilage bacteria are unable to multiply, which ultimately helps to maintain the quality and freshness of the stored food in the long run.
Maintaining the Appropriate Freezer Storage Time: Keeping in view the high-quality frozen food standards, all the ready to eat frozen foods come with a recommended storage or expiry date, which must be kept in mind before consuming the same. This helps to make certain that the nutrient retention in the food is high and that it is healthy to consume.
Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in the recognition of frozen and ready-to-eat foods. These foods have sustained the test of time, only to prove that they are actually a healthy, safe and convenient food option for modern households, and these avant-garde techniques to preserve frozen foods stand testament to the same.
The pioneers of the frozen food industry are also seen to be experimenting with innovative recipes for vegans, pollotarians and pescetarians, in addition to the usual vegetarians and non-vegetarians. There is a myriad range of frozen food meals and snacks available in the market, which is often tailor-made as per the tastes and preferences of everyone alike.
To sum up, it would be safe to claim that the frozen food industry has come a long way in embracing new techniques for healthy food preservation while keeping the ability to satiate different taste palates intact. Going ahead, the frozen food industry is expected to flourish further by leaps and bounds this year and beyond.