By Dr. Kriti Soni *
Freezing food is one of the oldest and the most convenient method of preserving food for longer period of time. It keeps the colour, taste and texture intact, if preserved at correct temperature.
The process involves three stages namely pre-treatment of the food, freezing and apt frozen storage.
The first stage of the freezing process is pre-treatment. This involves blanching, heat and dipping treatments, cryoprotection and more. These treatments help to prepare the food. It is important to remember that an effective freezing process will be able to retain already existing quality of food and not improve it. Therefore, the pre-treatment process aims to maintain quality and safety of frozen food.
Preservatives are not required because microorganisms do not grow when temperature of the food is below −9.5 °C. This temperature is sufficient on its own to prevent food spoilage.
Packaging of Frozen Food
There are three types of packaging used for frozen foods: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
1. Primary Packaging: The primary packaging is in direct contact with the food. The food is kept inside the package, up to the time of use.
2. Secondary Packaging: Secondary packaging is a form of layered packaging used to handle products together for sale purpose.
3. Tertiary Packaging: Tertiary packaging is used for bulk transportation of products.
- Packaging materials should be moisture-vapour-resistant/ moisture barrier bag (e.g. glass and rigid plastic) to prevent evaporation, thus retaining the highest quality for frozen foods.
- Air-tight packaging must be done using a vacuum or gas-flush system to prevent moisture and oxygen.
- -Most bags, wrapping materials, and waxed cartons used to package frozen foods are moisture-vapour-resistant.
- The containers should be leakage-free and easy to seal.
- Durability of the material is another important factor as packaging material must not become brittle at low temperatures and crack.
- Glass, plastic, tin and other heavily waxed cardboard materials are rigid containers used for packaging of liquid food products.
- Non-rigid containers include bags and sheets made of moisture-free, heavy aluminium foil, polyethylene or laminated papers.
Bags are commonly used packaging materials such as frozen fruits and vegetables due to their flexibility during processing and handling. They can be used with or without outer cardboard cartons to protect against tearing.
Impact of freezing on Nutritional value
Freezing doesn’t affect the calorie count, the fiber content, or the mineral content of a food. Though the freezing process can make a difference with a few vitamins (such as folate and vitamin C), but most food’s nutritional value will be maintained after freezing.
Freezing won’t change the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, or sugar in a particular food. The fluid content can change, however, which is often apparent when you thaw your food (you might see a puddle of liquid as the water drains away).
Vitamin content of frozen foods:
- Vitamin C: Usually lost in a higher concentration than any other vitamin
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): A vitamin loss of 25 percent is normal. Thiamin is easily soluble in water and is destroyed by heat.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Not much research has been done to see how much freezing affects Riboflavin levels. Studies performed on Riboflavin are inconclusive. One such study found 18 percent vitamin loss in green vegetables, while another found a 4 percent loss. It is commonly accepted that the loss of Riboflavin happens during pre-treatement rather than the actual freezing process itself.
- Vitamin A (Carotene): There is loss of carotene during the preparation of freezing and freezing of most vegetables. Vitamin loss is incurred during the extended storage period.
Packaging industry for food:
The packaging industry plays a crucial role by adding value to manufacturing industry such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, retail, FMCG and more. Basically the market has been growing due to solid demand from food and pharmaceutical industries. The paper packaging market contributes more than 30% of the overall market share and dominates other packaging domains.
As food safety and packaging norms are getting stricter, it is expected to promote use of good quality packaging. Affordability, urbanized households and time compression has expected to give way to packaged food industry. Government aims to make India a global manufacturing hub whilst having a positive impact on growth of packaging industry.
Scope in future
A noticeable rise was seen in demands of frozen food packaging industry in the global markets. It has upsurged due to significant change in daily dynamics of urban households. Convenient, quick and easy ways to consume food has risen the demand for frozen foods. It has become a healthier choice and has more health benefits when compared to other methods of preservation. It lays a map on the consumer preferences and directs companies to come up with durable and sustainable frozen food packaging products methods.
Europe, the largest market of frozen food, has a share of more than 35.0% in 2019 and was severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the government data, more than 50 thousand people have died due to coronavirus including resident of Italy, Germany, France, and Spain till the mid of April 2020. Moreover, the U.K., Belgium, and Netherlands are also severely hit by this pandemic. This has propelled huge demand for frozen food in Europe amidst this pandemic.
Asia Pacific anticipated to be the fastest growing region with a CAGR of 3.9% from 2020 to 2027 owing to the increasing trend of ready-to-eat food among working-class people and college graduates from countries such as China and India. China, India, and Japan are major market for consumers spending a fair share of their income on food. The rise in demand for frozen food has opened new avenues in the regional market. China was the first country to witness the coronavirus outbreak that resulted in forced quarantine by severely hit provinces of Japan for more than two months. Many other countries followed the same pursuit to maintain social distancing- the most effective way to control the spread of the virus. The sudden change infused positive demand shock for frozen foods in the economy of affected countries. This can cause a positive rise in the demands for frozen foods..
India’s frozen food market stood at $310 million in 2017 and projected a growth of over 16% CAGR to reach $754 million by 2023, backed by rapidly growing demand from middle class consumers with increasing disposable income. Urbanization, refrigeration facilities in small retail shops and rural households, and growing cold chain industry are expected to significantly contribute towards the growth of frozen food market in the country over the coming years. Moreover, the retail and e-commerce industry are among few other factors anticipated to augment demand for frozen food in India during forecast period.
Regulations on Frozen food
- According to Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Fifth Amendment Regulations, 2020, Food Business Operators have been asked to comply with all the provisions of the regulations by July 1, 2021.
- In the “Fruit & Vegetable Products” category, the standards for frozen beans, cauliflower, peas, and spinach were included.
As per the regulation for Frozen beans:
- The product shall be of uniform colour, free from foreign flavour, odour or free from imparted added ingredients.
- It shall be clean, free from sand, grit and other foreign material and it shall also test negative for Peroxidase.
- It shall not contain any added colour.
- It can be whole, cut, short cut, sliced or any other style of presentation is permitted.
As per the regulation for Frozen Cauliflower:
- The product shall be of reasonably uniform, white or dark cream colour which can slightly be dull and have a tinge of green, yellow or pink colour over the flower surface.
- The stem or branch portions may be light green or have a tinge of blue colour.
- The product may be presented in whole, split or florets.
(i) Whole: the whole head may remain intact, trimmed at the base or may have small, tender, modified leaves attached to it.
(ii) Split: the head can be cut vertically into two or more sections,
(iii) Florets: segments of the head, which may have a portion of the secondary stem attached to it, may have modified leaves that are present or attached to the units,
(iv) Others: An adequately described cauliflower on the label to avoid confusing or misleading the consumers.
- It shall be of reasonably uniform green colour according to type, whole, clean, and free from foreign matter & damage by insects or diseases.
- It shall be free from any foreign taste or smell and shall have a normal flavour, taking into consideration any ingredients added.
- It shall not contain any added colour.
As per the regulation for Frozen spinach:
- It shall be of a reasonably uniform green colour, characteristic or variety.
- It shall be free from any foreign flavours and odours other than those imparted by any added ingredients.
- It shall also be free from fibrous material. The styles of whole leaf and cut leaf shall not materially be disintegrated due to mechanical damage.
- The product, if in liquid form, shall be free from any dark particles or flower buds that may affect the overall appearance of the product while the product may be presented in
(i) Whole spinach: The spinach plant must remain intact but the root may be removed,
(ii) Leaf spinach: The leaves may be separated from the root crown,
(iii) Cut leaf spinach: Parts of leaves of spinach may be cut into pieces,
(iv) Chopped spinach: Parts of leaves of spinach may be cut into small pieces but not presented in the form of a pulp or puree
(v) Pureed spinach: Spinach is finely chopped or passed through a sieve.
Head, Formulation Development at Dabur Research Foundation *