By: Mr. Harmohan Singh *
The food industry is an ever growing market. With newer technologies making headway into the sector, the production process has gradually become easier. One pivotal factor that has influenced this shift has been the growing demand for processed and ready to eat options stemming from the influx of the fast-paced metropolitan lifestyle. As the work hours are getting longer, the time dedicated to eating and the associated preparation has drastically reduced, producing a vacuum for processed and ready-to-eat food to capture.
One of the major segments of the food industry is the meat sector. The non-vegetarian population in India consists of about 70% of the total population. The meat industry production is estimated at 6.3 million tones and is ranked fifth in the world’s meat production, accounting for 3 percent of the total meat production, with a total of 220 million tones.
With the volume of meat products produced in the country, the question of methods of increasing shelf life becomes extremely pertinent. With the advent of technology, sustainability of food items has always been of priority to the population. A large number of scientists dedicated to the cause have developed processes that drastically alter the preservation process positively and have revolutionized the food industry irreversibly.
Processes that increase the shelf life can be segmented into two sections owing to the time when they are administered. This includes pre and post production phase. Among the former, a few processes are of maximum utility. One such pivotal technique is temperature control. Maintaining the correct temperature produced the desired effect when it comes to meats and seafood preservation. Only products which are maintained at proper temperatures manage to attain shelf life.
Technologies like blast freezing & cold rooms ensure that products reach temperatures as low as -40 degree C. Hygiene is another factor which influences shelf life drastically. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Certification is an established metric for the food industry and serves as a quality assurance as well as a protective shield to customers across the country.
Strict hygiene processes and HACCP certification are supplements that aid in the maintenance of products. HACCP norms are very strict over hygiene but it is an assured method to ensure that products do not get contaminated which results in longer shelf life. UV rays are another popular method to ensure that all germs and bacteria are removed from the products before being packed.
In the post production phase, techniques like stock management are of utmost importance. It is very important to ensure that FIFO is followed when it comes to meats & seafood. A proper inventory algorithm is crucial to make sure stock movement is done in the right way. Packaging of the products is another aspect.
Once products are frozen & reach optimal temperature, the shelf life only depends on the packaging. If the packaging is good & protects the product from all outside particles including air, only then the shelf life can be achieved. Vacuum packaging which means sucking all the air out of the pack, is a process which results in the absence of any air particles that could contaminate the product.
Shelf life is conclusively an integral factor for businesses that operate in the food market. It is a holistic process that impacts the quality of the products as well as the reputation of the company and thus should be integrated into the production process comprehensively to reap better results.
Finance Head & Director–Good To Go