Technology has come a long way when it comes to keeping fruit and vegetables fresh for an extended period of time. Extending the shelf life does not always mean extending the taste, however. This is where IQF Freezing can be a solution, according to Svetlana Plotean of OctoFrost.
There are multiple advantages when comparing IQF (Individual Quick) Freezing to either other freezing methods or other ways of processing foods. According to Svetlana Plotean, marketing manager for OctoFrost, one of the three main advantages would be keeping the nutritional value intact: “Especially when exporting fruit and vegetables overseas, sometimes it can take up to three weeks for the product to reach its destination. This means the product has lost a significant amount of the nutritional value along with the taste and flavor. This is why our clients are using our equipment to freeze the produce at its source, at peak ripeness when it’s nutritional value is at its maximum. The factory would ideally be right next to the fields for optimal efficiency.”
Another advantage of using IQF Freezing would be the convenience of being able to defrost the exact amount of fruit or veg you need for your meal, smoothie or even snack: “There’s no need to defrost the entire bag while not planning to use all of it. This ties in directly with a third advantage: decreasing waste. We waste about 40 to 70% of our fresh food, depending on the product. When it comes to being environmentally aware and not wasting food, IQF Freezing is unbeatable,” Plotean explains. “This means it’s a win-win for both consumers and businesses alike, for consumers the decrease in wasted food even leads to saving money. Because of the climate change and our responsibility to take care of our planet, it is vital we reduce food waste. I expect IQF Freezing will become the standard when supplying produce overseas.”
The technology used for IQF Freezing appeared about twenty years ago, so it’s still relatively new. Over time improvements have been made according to Plotean: “With technology changing so fast, we have been able to improve a lot of aspects of the freezing process. For one we’ve been able to make the entire process much more energy efficient, which helps in both keeping the costs down, while also keeping the environmental aspect in mind. We’ve also been able to make the process more flexible in terms of switching between various products. For instance, in the traditional freezers cleaning a belt for changing products is a a long and disruptive process. OctoFrost, on the other hand, has developed easily exchangeable bedplates which can be changed with a new, clean set in about 2 min. This brings a lot of flexibility to processors.”
OctoFrost has developed unique aerodynamics in its freezer which minimizes dehydration of the product and optimizes energy efficiency. This has been done by combining a very compact body freezer design with adjustable speed of fans. The product quality is significantly increased by these technologies. Another example of our innovativeness is the way we transfer heat in the IF blancher, IF cooker and IF chiller. Where other equipment would use steam to transfer the heat, our food processing machinery uses rain shower system instead. The result is better temperature control and faster heat transfer, our method is simply more efficient,” Plotean says.
As for the future, technology never stands still. Plotean expects there is still a lot of ground to be won when it comes to the sizing of IQF Freezing equipment: “Sizing goes hand in hand with efficiency and this has always been one of our main goals. Already our equipment is about 30 to 40% smaller than the freezing and processing equipment of our competitors, which not only saves energy but also makes space usage more efficient. You can imagine a client would not want to take apart half of his factory floor, simply to replace or improve on a single component of a IQF Freezing line. So we’ll always try to advance in terms of efficiency, and have already proven to be successful in this department. We’re also exploring different kinds of new applications that can be IQF frozen. We’re able to IQF freeze herbs and leafy products now for instance. This is a great solution for maintaining the fresh taste.”
All in all, Plotean believes that IQF Freezing should become the future of supplying fruit and veg: “I honestly think Fresh will not survive in the long term, when it comes to transporting overseas. Fresh transport will always be around, but I expect it to be for local supply. Customer expectations keep increasing, and they are looking for natural taste and flavor which is very difficult to find in fresh fruits and berries, for instance, which are supplied from overseas.”