IQF fruits for a sustainable future
As a result of Covid-19, the demand for frozen food has soared and shows no signs of slowing down. The convenience, affordable price, and longer shelf life of frozen food are starting to get recognized by consumers, especially given that researchers have found that the vitamin content in frozen fruits may be equal, or even higher, as in fresh fruit.
Fruits like strawberries, peaches, and apricots are seasonal, highly perishable, and delicate. Choosing the Individual Quick Freeze (IQF) method to process them is to opt for a well-preserved fruit and a profitable wholesales price. However, the processing of IQF fruits needs to be done correctly for the best possible results.
Chilling for energy efficiency
A standard sequence for processing IQF strawberries and fruits like peaches or apricots starts with washing, and dicing (if necessary), followed by pre-chilling, dewatering, then IQF freezing. Often processors skip the chilling stage, feeding the room temperature product straight into the freezer.
It is, however, much more energy and cost-efficient to chill the product before IQF freezing. Only 30% of energy is used when the product is cooled with a chiller, compared with the energy used when directly putting a warm product into the freezer. Having a well-chilled product fed into the freezer can also increase its capacity by about 10%.
Chilling with OctoFrost Water Bath Chiller helps products’ core temperature reach 5°C (41°F) or less, preparing for efficient and quick IQF freezing. Moreover, for fruits like peaches and apricots, it is feasible to mix ascorbic acid into the chiller's circulated water for fruit color retention. Also, keep in mind that the length of soaking time does not affect the fruit's color. The ability to merge the steps of chilling and color-preserving saves production time and cost for processors.
Dewatering for good product separation
Dewatering is vital before freezing; if it’s not done, it can lead to energy overuse, clogged bedplates and creating lumps in the product because of excess surface water, which hurts the profitability of production and impacts on the product's integrity. IQF Freezer defrost time is usually cut in half due to dewatering, and product quality substantially increases with a natural appearance and high degree of product separation.
IQF Freezing for reduced food waste
IQF fruits are commonly picked at their peak of ripeness and frozen immediately to retain their vitamins and antioxidants. This is followed instantly by the chilling and dewatering stages. The final touch of IQF freezing completes the whole processing circle.
OctoFrost IQF Freezer can have multiple adjustable freezing zones, and each zone can be set to the desired fan speed. It allows diced fruits like strawberries or peaches to be gently separated by continuous airflow but not overblown. In the first freezing zone, the airflow can be adjusted for a crust freezing that locks the moisture inside of the product and minimizes the product dehydration.
The bedplates in the OctoFrost IQF Freezer have a smooth surface eliminating any damage to a fruit's surface. These bedplates are uniquely designed for easy cleaning, exchange and food safety.
Processing with OctoFrost IQF equipment ensures nutrient-density and water content of fruits while maintaining a fruit’s aroma, color, and texture. In a nutshell, IQF frozen fruits will be undoubtedly priced higher in markets. Putting profitability aside, “only thaw what you need” is what OctoFrost continually promotes, by encouraging consumers to prepare food only as much as needed, for a sustainable world with less food waste.